How does one become competent across cultures? One develops intercultural communication competence by practicing mindfulness, which means reflecting on one’s knowledge of any given situation and then trying to figure out the meaning of the events and interactions.
As business people, we often think we can charge into a situation and fix it, but this isn’t always the case when we work with people from different mindsets and cultures. We must remember that:
◊Business learning does not necessarily equate culture learning.
◊Functional expertise does not guarantee intercultural success.
Past and current research into intercultural communication in management suggests that we first must know ourselves before we can know others. Spending time engaged in reflection on who we are, where we came from and what constitutes our individual cultural identity will shed insight into other people’s cultures. Then we must begin to develop a deeper understanding of who others are in relation to ourselves.
This Model of the Components of Cultural Intelligence* directs us towards the developmental and iterative process of developing cultural flexibility.
Knowledge means understanding what culture is [the values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of a group of people], how cultures differ from each other, and how culture ultimately affects behaviors. Having basic knowledge is not enough because there are so many subtleties and cultural differences that no one can know them all. This is why we need to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is what a cultural sensitive person will practice by paying attention to the cues of intercultural situations and interactions. By being open-minded and reflective, one will also observe one’s own knowledge and feelings during these situations and actions.
Competence is when the culturally sensitive person (the person with CQ – Cultural Intelligence) develops skills and practices them, again and again, across a wide range of situations. The CQ person keeps building a repertoire of appropriate behaviors and responses based upon experience. One can only develop competencies/skills through reflection – one builds upon the facts learned and supplements those facts with knowledge gained through trial and error of intercultural experiences. It’s an ongoing, iterative process.