We are living in world that is becoming more connected than ever before and experiencing huge demographic changes. Which means that we are dealing with a dramatic increase in cross-cultural communications and relationships, which is due to greater economic and political interdependence, and a sharp rise in the advances of communication technology (DeVito, 2019). In my opinion as a Life Coach, if we are to take full advantage of this golden opportunity of being able to share in the valuable wisdom and resources of such cultures, it is imperative to learn about who they are and what makes them so unique. We must understand that in order to be fully open minded, we must create a broad-scale adoption of cultural sensitivity. A cultures beliefs, values and customs are what gives them a distinctive perspective of the world, and such values even affect the kind of criteria by which to judge and assess others (Goman, 2011).
While we may all be able to communicate, we don’t all communicate in the same way. Especially when it comes to common customs in different cultures, and/or the beliefs and values systems that such cultures adhere to. According to one study by Dyers & Wankah (2010) at Greenmarket Square in Cape Town, it was found that even non-verbal communication between its diverse cross-cultural respondents was reported as a major factor in intercultural miscommunication, which brings up the crucial importance of cultural sensitivity.
Furthermore, I feel that if I want to positively influence a client during a counselling session, especially from a different culture, to see eye to eye, and “be on the same page”, then I must not only educate myself on their culture, but also address any stigma’s, perceived barriers, stereotypes and/or fears that I may feel towards them (DeVito 2019). I must understand that some cultures may have a low-ambiguity tolerance than mine and therefore may find my approaches to dealing with issues offensive and threatening.
One of the most pressing issues with dealing with culture that is unfamiliar with your own is the (mostly) unconscious bias you may have towards your own culture. When this bias goes unchecked, it will try to compare your cultural practises, dialects and accents with the other person, while presuming that your practises are not only superior, but that theirs may be wrong all together (DeVito, 2019). However, it was found that by bringing people together from different cultural groups tensions and misunderstandings between them were reduced (the “contact hypothesis”; Allport, 1954).
The other issue is based on the collective mindset of the culture and how it might be in stark contrast one’s own. For example, some cultures practise individualism and favour power, achievement, hedonism and are more low-context in the approach to how information is communicated (DeVito 2019). Other cultures prefer a collective approach in their orientation and tend to value attributes such as tradition, conformity, and often favour a high-context approach to communicating information and leave much of the message unspecified (Goman, 2011).
So whether we are a more restraint culture or prefer indulgence, as a Life Coach, I think the main aim of cultural awareness is to bridge the gap in interpersonal communication, so we can remember that we are communicating with a normal person, just like us.
Thanks for reading
Donovan – Life Coach
DeVito, J.A. (2019). Culture and interpersonal communication. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 43-68). Pearson education.
Dyers, C. & Wankah, F.J. (2010). Uncovering and negotiating barriers to intercultural communication at Greenmarket Square, Cape Town’s “World in miniature”: An insider’s perspective. Per Linguam, 26(1), 1-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.5785/26-1-10
Keith, K.D. (2013).Ethnocentrism. In K.D Keith (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural Psychology (1st ed., pp. 1-4). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Goman, C.K. (2011). How culture controls communication. Forbes media LLC. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2011/11/28/how-culture-controls-communication/#6eabe92b263b