• Edwin Lemke

Enhance your Personal Cultural Competence

An ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures
Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures

As a trainer in an international environment with the chance to meet people from all over the world you will often be in the situation to learn about different cultures.

Be prepared to communicate effectively and appropriately with people of other cultures. “Effectively” means to accomplish values, goals or rewards (relative to costs and alternatives), and “appropriately” means to meet values, norms and expectations of the relationship.

The basic requirements for cultural competence are empathy, an understanding of other people's behaviors and ways of thinking, and the ability to express one's own way of thinking.

In interactions with people from foreign cultures, a person who is culturally competent understands the culture-specific concepts of perception, thinking, feeling, and acting.

A balance among four parts Cultural competence comprises a balance among four parts: • Self-awareness of one's own cultural worldview – to be conscious about one's self and about one's reputation elsewhere • attitude towards cultural differences – to fully appreciate what others are saying, to think consequentially prior to answering, to accept diversity • knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews and of other people's behaviors • cross-cultural skills – to be sensitive to the importance of differences and to the point of view of other people and to have a type of mental elasticity allowing to be part of and yet apart from another culture

Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures.

Active self-learning tips for cultural competence

On your way to develop your skills – which are to be learned, of course, and which are a part of lifelong learning – think about the following tips:

Before the training starts: • Learn about yourself. Get started by exploring your own historical roots, beliefs and values, and learn about your own country. As a start explore the site http://geert-hofstede.com . • Prepare yourself and know where the people are coming from whom you are going to meet. The easiest way: Surf the internet, especially Wikipedia, about cities and countries. • If you know that you are going to a foreign country seek cultural insight through journal articles, academic books or novels. • Try to learn some words of the foreign language. People always appreciate if you address to them in their mother tongue. • Respect the local communication formalities and styles. • Be prepared to deal with uncertainty, especially in cultures where communication may be more subtle and nuanced than in your country. Be prepared to show empathy and appreciation.

When you are in training show your appreciation: • Be sure that you understand names correctly. Never hesitate to ask and to repeat the correct pronunciation – and try to remember. • Observe carefully and attentively. • Also listen carefully; in general listen more than you talk and chances are you’ll learn more and faster. • Watch for any changes in body language. • Ask. Ask for confirmation of understanding. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You won’t be perceived as less intelligent, as people generally appreciate the interest, and enjoy sharing information about their nation and its culture. You will even be positively considered as humble and ready to learn. • Smile. Remember: “A smile is the same in every language.” A smile can always be a great ice-breaker and stress reliever.

On the long run: • A culture includes stories, values and beliefs for ages. Value a culture’s contributions to the greater human story. • You may face situations in which you are not in control or don’t have all the answers. Be patient with yourself as well as with participants. Just keep your focus on the big picture.

Benefits in your training As a result of your developed cultural competency you will get numerous benefits in your training - as:

• You learn about your own strengths, weaknesses, prejudices and preconceptions. • You break down barriers and build trust: Awareness leads to dialogue which leads to understanding which results in trust. • You open horizons because with cultural competency you help people think outside the box. • Rather than focus on differences you can actively move towards creating a shared space.

And as cultural competence is a lifelong project – be patient and gentle to yourself. Enjoy your growing experiences.

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