Globalization is a hot topic in this year’s presidential election. As candidates discuss the pros and cons of globalization’s effects on business and enterprise in the U.S., it is clear that the next administration will have to address new challenges related to the globalization of economies. However, addressing globalization’s impact is not just the responsibility of heads of state. With students and employees continuing to cross borders, institutions of higher education and organizations are swiftly diversifying. All of us are responsible for adapting to this changing environment.
Developing intercultural communication skills matters more than ever. Wondering how you can better engage with people from different countries that are sitting in your classroom or joining your team at work? Here are two steps to help you connect with people from different cultures:
1. Learn about where you come from.
The way we see, interact with, and understand the world depends on the culture and values we grew up with. As we become increasingly interconnected, it is important to understand who you are in order to best communicate with others. Recognizing that you see the world in a unique way will help you to understand why someone from a different culture may not see things exactly the way that you do. Think about aspects of your identity, such as your age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability status, sexual orientation, and spiritual orientation. How have these parts of your identity impacted your worldview? In addition, how have certain sociocultural and personal events shaped who you are?
2. Learn more about other cultures.
Reading books by authors from other countries, watching movies and documentaries filmed abroad, and reaching out to your colleagues, classmates, and neighbors from different cultures will help you educate yourself about other cultures. Asking someone about cultural do’s and don’ts in their country can often lead to a fun conversation. Taking a language course is another great way to learn about the geography, people, and history of the countries where the language is spoken. The more contact and exposure you have to people from other cultures, the more culturally competent you will become.
Even though we are more connected by popular media today, our cultural differences persist and can lead to unnecessary and unintended intercultural conflicts. If we want to avoid cultural clashes like this, we must educate ourselves as best as possible about who we are and about the cultural values and beliefs of others. Awareness will help us understand why someone may be arguing a certain ethical point in class or leading a meeting in a certain way at work. Awareness will make us better prepared to listen, rather than react. Even if we end up not agreeing, our intercultural communication skills will allow us to respect one another and be more accepting of our differences.