The global knowledge economy has made our world smaller. We’re now part of a globally competitive marketplace in which anyone from anywhere can be your customer, thanks to the advancements in technology and the breakdown of linguistic and market barriers.
To succeed and thrive in this dynamic landscape, we all need to work on boosting our cultural IQ. Your products, programs, and ideas should be able to resonate with diverse audiences worldwide. It’s not about having a one-size-fits-all solution but rather understanding and applying universal principles in different ways through contextualization.
So, how can you increase your cultural intelligence? Here are 7 ways to get started:
Cultivate the Ability to Listen: Listening is a fundamental aspect of cultural intelligence, as bad listeners tend to have low cross-cultural IQ. To understand how truth is applied in different cultural contexts, you need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. By observing and listening attentively, you’ll gain valuable insights into how different cultures perceive and interact with the world.
Embrace Boldness: To engage effectively with other cultures, you must overcome the fear of joining the conversation. People that are really good at learning languages have an interesting mix of being good listeners while having the boldness to speak without being scared of being wrong. Don’t allow ‘perfect’ to be the enemy of the ‘good’–even though engaging in conversations with other cultures can feel tricky, approaching it from a humble and respectful posture goes a long way.
Respect Other Cultures as Much as Yours: Ask yourself: do you really respect all cultures equally? In order to increase your cultural IQ, you cannot have any xenophobia. You have to believe your culture is different than others, but not better. As soon as you think your culture is better, others will notice a lack of genuine interest and understanding. Even if you think you’re saying the right things or are doing a good job of not insulting anyone, people will pick up on how you really feel about them. If they can feel that you truly respect their culture, they’ll be more quick to forgive you for any accidental mistakes you make.
Immerse Yourself: Every culture has good and bad. All cultures are imperfect. You have to be a discerner of what is beautiful about each culture. To truly appreciate and understand other cultures, you need to immerse yourself in their world. Traveling or spending time with people from different backgrounds will open your eyes to the beauty and imperfections present in all cultures. Take the time to discern what aspects of a culture should be celebrated and emulated and what needs to be addressed and confronted with love and discretion.
Seek Cultural Bridges: Find individuals who understand both your culture as well as possess strong cross-cultural IQ and can act as your guides. These cultural translators can help you navigate tensions between cultures, offering insider perspectives and enabling you to build a cross-cultural worldview.
Embrace Diversity: We live in a multicultural world, so there should be intentionality about how you’re building your organization and business by hiring people that represent diverse perspectives, voices, and cultural contexts. If you’re catching any sense of bigotry or stigmas within your organization and letting it fester, you’re not going to build an organization that is going to effectively navigate this interconnected world.
See the Person, Not Just the Culture: While learning about cultures is essential, never forget that every individual is unique. Avoid making assumptions based solely on cultural backgrounds. Instead, see and value the person in front of you, just as Jesus always saw the individual person and not only their cultural inheritance.
As we continue to journey through this globalized world, let’s make a conscious effort to increase our cultural intelligence. By listening, respecting, and embracing diversity, we can build bridges that lead to better understanding, collaboration, and unity among people from all corners of the globe. Remember, it’s not just about appreciating cultures; it’s about cherishing the individuals who make up those cultures and seeking common ground.