According to the United States Census Bureau, the U.S. population is a diverse nation and continuously growing multicultural society. Given the complexity of societal diversity and multicultural interactions, it is important to understand the context of diversity and multicultural interactions and how to navigate within the various conversations and complexities of inclusion.
What is Diversity?
Diversity is the term used to define or summarize all the ways in which people are different. It is the differentiating factors that identify the many dimensions and differences in age, gender, race, ethnicity, language, height, weight, religion, spirituality, sexual orientation, employment, income, education, geographical locations, family, status, hierarchy, skills, talents, abilities, disabilities, experiences, assumptions and more.
The inclusion and acceptance of a diverse culture open the opportunity for people of diverse experiences to participate and contribute in the design and makeup of our families, workplaces, communities, and nations. Valuing the differences of others helps in the discovery of new opportunities, innovations, developments, and solutions as we are able to draw upon these various backgrounds and experiences to the insight of new perspectives and achievements.
In many cases, a majority of people understand that it is easier to connect with people who share the same culture, background, history, language, experiences – as there are a multitude of understandings already in place that facilitates these smoother terrains of reasoning, interactions, communication, agreements, or even disagreements. However, when these factors of commonality are different, multicultural differences can also be factors and can present a multitude of challenges and misunderstandings that can prohibit effective communications and positive interactions.
Five Practical Steps to Help Develop Cross-Cultural Interaction Skills:
To develop effective cross-cultural communication and interaction skills, the approach needs only to be practical. This means, working actively to understand people, their differences, and staying focused on achieving positive results. This means taking the time to LEARN or in other words:
(1) Listen actively to ensure you have accurately heard and understood. Also, listen for meaning considering some culture may use similar words, but in different ways. There, confirm your understanding is within the right context and meaning;
(2) Effectively communicate by choosing words that keep the lines of communication open and supports positive interaction. Be honest and be self-aware. Change at any level requires a commitment to honesty and understanding especially about one’s own strengths and weaknesses within the process.
(3) Avoid ambiguity by doing your homework and learning as much as you can about other cultures and any other differences that could possible blindside you or present hindrances. The more you know, the less ambiguous diversity and multicultural differences become;
(4) Respect differences by either showing genuine interest their differences and/or at the least make a true effort to respect the differences (e.g., if one’s religion requires he/she take some time throughout the day to pray, show respect by giving him/her the opportunity to do so);
(5) No Judgement – the focus here is to avoid judgment and stereotyping. Recognize the complexities at stake, be flexible, and understand the world is a wide range of possibilities, opportunities, and discoveries.
When attempting to interact with others, it is important to maintain authenticity and understanding to connect without biases, prejudices, and/or contaminated beliefs. Understanding the unique differences of others means you are making an attempt to understand more than just their demographics.
Diversity & Inclusion. (2014, December 12). <www.census.gov/about/census-careers/diversity.html>
Zofi, Y. (2018, July 05). 5 Strategies for Effective Cross-Cultural Interactions • International Association of Business Communicators • IABC. <www.iabc.com/5-strategies-for-effective-cross-cultural-interactions/>
Zofi, Y. (n.d.). Cross-Cultural Business Communication. <www.yaelzofi.com/cross-cultural-business-communication-03/>