We are often placed in situations where we are with a persons of a different cultures. So what you do? How do you interact? Intercultural competency is not only an important social skill, but if you are entrepreneur or work for a business with diverse clientele, intercultural competency is vital to profitability.
Many times I’m placed in situation where I am the only black person in the room. More often than not, I interact with someone who wants me to feel at ease. When you meet someone from a different culture people try to make connections. Very often those connections are made at the surface level. In our attempt to be sensitive to the needs of other people, we often focus on very superficial commonalities we focus on the visible culture. The visible culture entails things such as: food; art; dance; language and easily observable traditions/differences. So in my case when I meet people of a different racial background (mainly white people. They try to interact with me from those surface visible culture type levels.
First, they tell me why they aren’t racist and they describe in graphic detail how not racist they aren’t. (Always a bad way to start a conversation)
Second, the tone of their voices changes, they become cool, soulful or they start quoting rap lyrics (I am not lying).
Third, we normally circle back to how racist their family is or how racist other people they know are along with me some story about why there are not racist (insert black friend, dating a black person, or some speech by a magical Negro here.)
What should you do instead?
- Introduce yourself and try some active listening. Tell your story, talk about your interest and see where the conversation leads. Don’t force it.
- Ask general questions to access the person’s values and worldview.
- Share common elements of the human race. Don’t just talk about what you think Asians, Blacks, or any other culture should be interested in.
Culture is more than what is on the outside. Don’t limit your interactions based on how you think people should be.
Take some time to go deeper.