Communication

7 Your Culture and Awareness of Cultural Values

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify your own cultural orientation.
  • Examine diverse cultural values.
  • Explain the importance of inter-cultural perspective.

Awareness of Cultural Values

You have already reflected on your personal or individual gifts and values in the previous section. Now it is a good time to reflect on different cultural values and diversity around your workplace.  According to Heathfield ( 2018), culture involves beliefs, attitudes, values, and traditions that are shared by a group of people Let’s do the following exercise to understand different cultural assumptions embedded in our customs and way of life.

Watch Derek Sivers deliver a TED talk “Weird, or just different?”

Exercise

Answer the following questions: 

  • When receiving a gift from a co-worker, should you open it immediately, or wait to open it in private?
  •  In a conversation with your instructor or your supervisor at work, should you maintain direct eye contact?

Compare your answers with the following guidelines – in many cases, it depends!

In Chile, it is good manners to open a gift immediately and express delight and thanks. But in Japan it is a traditional custom to not open a gift in the giver’s presence.

In mainstream North American culture, people are expected to look directly at each other when having a conversation. But a cultural norm for many traditional Indigenous people involves keeping one’s eyes lowered as a sign of respect when speaking to an instructor or supervisor.

Of course, no one can be expected to learn all the “dos and don’ts” of the world’s myriad cultures; instead, the key is to be willing to understand cultural differences and develop a capability to adapt our behaviors appropriate to diverse cultures. Remember that the way we would like to be treated is not necessarily the way others would like to be treated.

Understanding Cultural Differences

Awareness of Indigenous Culture

Hall (1973) stated that “Culture hides much more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants. Years of study have convinced me that the real job is not to understand foreign culture but to understand our own.”

Exercise

Check out this list of the differences between traditional Aboriginal cultures and mainstream Western culture provided by Indigenous Works.

Do you agree with the list?

Under Traditional Culture, are there items that are new to you or that you don’t agree with?

 

According to Voyageur (2001), Indigenous communities in Canada are themselves multicultural and diverse. There is sometimes a misconception that Indigenous people are one homogenous group who share the same culture, traditions, and languages. In British Columbia there are more than 200 Indigenous communities with an amazing diversity of culture and language. In addition, there are Indigenous people from other provinces living in BC, as well as Metis and Inuit People. Each of these groups/communities has its own unique culture, traditions, and history.

Awareness of Other Cultural Orientations

Once you have a good understanding of your own cultural values, it is in your best interest to work to understand other people’s cultural and historical backgrounds. This will help you be open and curious, as well it can provide answers to better understand the motivations and values that impact you and the people around you.

Values that Shape Cultural Differences

To gain understanding of different cultural orientations, see the information provided on Ten Values that Shape Cultural Differences and answer the questions in the box below.

Exercise – Test your intercultural knowledge

Moving Towards Intercultural Competency

How do people deal with cultural differences Bennett’s (1993) Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) below describes a six-stage continuum for increasingly sophisticated ways of dealing with cultural differences.

 

Watch the video on Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity

When we have a monocultural mindset, other cultural norms could be seen as weird or minimal. However, as we move towards an unanchored view of culture, we may be able to learn how to interpret behaviors and communications that are different from our own without making judgments based on our own standards. Then when we perceive each culture in terms of the other and focus on the relationship and meaning-making process itself, we can say that we have achieved “intercultural competency”.  According to Sharma et al., intercultural competency is the “ability to think and act in appropriate ways with people from other cultures” (2009, p. 232).  In the next module, we will discuss how to build up this intercultural competence especially in the workplace communication setting.

Key Takeaways

  • To become a successful communicator in today’s culturally diverse workplaces, it is important to recognize your own cultural orientation and the different cultural values and diversity around you.

References

Heathfield, S.M. (2020, March 6), Culture: Your environment for people at work. the balancecareers.

Hall, E.T. (1973). The silent language. Toronto: Anchor Books.

Voyageur, C.J. and Calliou, B. (2000) Various shades of red: Diversity within Canada’s Indigenous community London Journal of Canadian Studies, 16, 109-124.

Bennett, M.J. (1993). Towards a developmental model of intercultural sensitivity. In R.M, Paige (Ed.), Education for the intercultural experience (pp. 21-72). Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

Sharma, P., Tam, J. L. M., & Kim, N. (2009). Demystifying intercultural service encounters: Toward a comprehensive conceptual framework. Journal of Service Research, 12(2), 227-242.

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