6th Station – Cultural Intelligence
Find yourself a quiet space in which to work. You need to be online (with audio) to watch some short films You will also need to have a pen and paper to hand to capture your thoughts, and a copy of the CQ Wheel Worksheet.
However much background research we do, the most obvious – and most effective – way to develop understanding between people of different nationalities is to immerse yourselves in one another’s culture: Speak the language, eat the food, visit the places, wear the clothes, see the architecture, experience the art, interact with the people, share in their traditions, celebrate and commiserate with them, follow their rules… in short – live the life.
Equipped with an understanding of the unique mixture of cultural influences that affect your own behaviours, perspective and world view, it is easier to understand that individuals from other countries and cultures will have similar complex layers of cultural influence. In this way we can eliminate preconceived ideas, overcome generalisations and ignore stereotypes, to look beneath the surface with genuine curiosity and respect. So where do you start?
Watch and learn:
The following films discuss some pitfalls to avoid in exploring cultures that are different from our own, and some possible ways to avoid them.
As you watch the films, consider:
- In what ways does having an ethnocentric outlook limit our capacity to truly understand the world?
- How does an understanding of cultural relativism assist in our development of international understanding?
- What happens when we change our cultural glasses?
- Are stereotypes and generalisations always wrong? Are they harmless? Why?
Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism | What is It?
This short film asks: Do you think that everyone in the world behaves the same as the people around you? The film explores how ethnocentric individuals tend to use their own cultural norms to make generalisations about other peoples’ cultures and customs, and the impact of this. The film also considers how cultural relativism can provide objective insight into other cultures, and help to develop cultural awareness and acceptance as important steps toward a better and peaceful world.
How culture drives behaviour
In this short film Julien S. Bourrelle explains that we see the world through our own cultural glasses and suggest that by changing the glasses we can change the way we interpret the world.
Why Do You Think Stereotypes Are True? | Decoded
Most people realise that it is wrong to stereotype. But some of these generalisations are so ingrained in our minds through social conditioning that it can be difficult to avoid. You might even start to think they are true! Follow along with Francesca as she breaks down the causes and consequences of stereotyping in this episode of Decoded.
Another potential pitfall to avoid is Cultural Appropriation, or Misappropriation.
That is: The adoption of elements of one culture by another culture (usually by a dominant culture appropriating from a minority culture), including using them outside of their original cultural context. This is often done against the wishes of the originating culture, which can undermine the cultural significance of whatever is borrowed. This one is a widely debated and delicate issue to navigate. When is it OK to draw inspiration from another culture in – say – clothing fashion – and when does it become offensive and borderline identity theft? Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? Where is the line between harmless fusion of surface culture and using another person’s cultural wardrobe as cosplay/ fancy-dress box?
Browse these articles to find out more about cultural appropriation:
- In fashion, cultural appropriation is either very wrong or very right
- Cultural appropriation: don’t be an invader
- 7 Ways “Honoring” Other Cultures Is Really Cultural Appropriation
- What do we really mean when we talk about cultural appropriation
Cultural Intelligence and The CQ Wheel
So: Do we agree that behaviours are heavily based on what our life experiences are, including factors such as family background and circumstance, cultural norms and values, interaction with society, ethnicity, religion and – yes, you guessed it – which country we live in?
Can we also agree that as we progress through the different stages of life, the relative importance to us (and influence on us) of those factors that affect our behaviours will change?
And can we also agree that both our most important cultural influences themselves, and the impact they have on our behaviours, are complex and constantly changing at a very individual and personal level?
If we can all agree on these things, why do we still sometimes resort to stereotypes and generalisations based on nationality alone? Well, research suggests that we use generalisation and stereotype to try to make sense of, and structure, our understanding of the wider world. Essentially we do it because it’s easy and it helps our brains to sort and categorise things that are complex and messy.
If you are thinking that this is something you never do, ask yourself: Have you ever found yourself assuming knowledge about an entire culture based on a biased news report or misleading sources of information on social media, or through listening to misinformed people? This can lead to cultural stereotyping, which, in turn can lead to false cultural assumptions being made. This is not to say that generalisations are never useful or true, but there is a big difference between understanding a group of people and their culture by truly getting to know it, and assuming knowledge through judgement and generalisations.
So our brains need systems and processes to structure the way in which we seek to understand other cultures. This is where Cultural Intelligence comes in.
We’ve all heard of IQ – Intelligence Quotient – and EQ as a measure of emotional intelligence, but what about CQ?
Watch this short film to find out more about Cultural intelligence and its use in cross-cultural contexts, and the Wheel of Cultural Intelligence, which breaks this down into four focus areas: Drive, knowledge, strategy and action.
Consolidate your Learning by creating a Wheel of Cultural Intelligence
Let’s take a deeper dive into the Wheel of Cultural Intelligence. Find your CQ Worksheet (or draw your own CQ wheel) and consider each of the four sections in turn, making notes as you go:
Your Cultural Intelligence Drive is about your interest, motivation and confidence to adapt in multi-cultural situations. It relates to your openness and curiosity about other cultures, your ability to persist in overcoming bias, and is the starting point for any learning as a result of intercultural exchange. Consider:
- Do you enjoy interacting with people from countries and cultures that are different from your own?
- What do you gain personally from the experience? E.g. what skills do you develop, what knowledge do you acquire etc.
- What positive benefits for societies arise from people seeking to develop their international understanding?
- How confident are you in your ability to interact in an international/ intercultural context? Why?
Your Cultural Intelligence Knowledge is your depth of understanding about how cultures are similar and different. It is more than just awareness of surface culture such as differences in language or food, and extends to deep culture – the beliefs, values and attitudes that drive behaviour. Consider:
- Do you feel you have a thorough understanding of your own culture? Do you feel you understand any other cultures? Why?
- In what ways does developing CQ Knowledge help us to understand others better?
- If you completed stations 3 and 4, What was the most surprising or interesting thing you found out about your own culture?
- What knowledge about the types and subtleties of cultural difference do you now have stored in your memory?
Cultural Intelligence Strategy is about your awareness of the need to plan for multi-cultural interactions and your understanding of the mechanisms for doing this. It is your ability to be flexible and open to new ideas, to be innovative and to take the broadest worldview. CQ Strategy helps us to manage cultural complexity. Consider:
- Do you view diversity and multiculturalism as challenges or as opportunities?
- Make a list of 3 challenges that you might have to face when interacting with people from different cultures.
- Now list 3 learning opportunities that are outcomes of multiculturalism.
Your Cultural Intelligence Action is your ability to adapt when relating and working inter-culturally. It brings together CQ drive, knowledge and strategy and puts them into practice through applying skills such as adaptability, communication skills, tenacity and self-awareness. Consider:
- What would you want to know about another country or culture before you visited?
- What five questions would you want to ask of someone from another part of the world to find out about their deep cultural influences (if you completed station 5 you will already have answered this)?
- What would you want to tell someone visiting you to help them to adapt to your culture?
Once you have completed your Wheel of Cultural Intelligence (or CQ Wheel) keep hold of it because it will be useful in the final challenge.
A final activity:
Your final task before moving on to the ultimate challenge, is to test out the ideas, theories and tools we have developed across the six station stops along the way. For this you will need to connect with someone in another country. If you already completed station 5 on “communications” this might be a continuation of that conversation, or you might connect with a different person for this task.
Using the notes on your Wheel of Cultural Intelligence, to prepare for the conversation or virtual exchange. Think about:
(1) your motivation to find out more about this person’s culture?
(2) what you know (or think you know) already… this is your opportunity to test your theories and overcome bias?
(3) what you want to learn and why, and what you would like to share with them about your own country and culture?