Home Society & Culture A Question of Culture: 5 Ways to Improve Your Cultural Intelligence

A Question of Culture: 5 Ways to Improve Your Cultural Intelligence

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Cultural intelligence describes a person’s ability to relate to and work effectively with various cultures. Some lucky people can naturally interpret unfamiliar gestures and ways of life, embrace diversity, and cross boundaries to prosper in new cultures. However, it’s not this way for many of us. 

Thankfully, cultural intelligence can be a learned trait. So, if you’re trying to be more culturally intelligent to benefit yourself, your workplace, and your team, you might like to do some of the following things:   

Adopt an inclusive workplace model

Improving your cultural intelligence doesn’t have to be something you work on independently. Instead, you can involve your entire team by adopting an inclusive workplace model within your business. 

An inclusive workplace model should deliver an environment that ensures every employee feels valued. You can achieve this by acknowledging differences in background and ability and how they contribute to your organization’s culture and success. 

Be curious, not judgemental

All cultures differ, and the customs and beliefs of one might be entirely different from another. Rather than judging cultures for their differences, be curious about them. Learn where they come from and how they differ from yours, and show genuine interest in people’s ways of life. When you approach the world with curiosity rather than judgment, you should find it easier to build meaningful and beneficial relationships with people from different walks of life. 

Understand your head, body, and heart

It’s a unique prospect, but some experts believe cultural intelligence requires developing three components – your head, body, and heart (also described as cognitive, physical, and emotional/motivational). 

Cognitively, you’ll learn about your own culture and the culture of others before gaining an understanding of cultural diversity in general. You can then focus on your body, which involves understanding when your actions coincide with people from other cultures to create openness and build trust. 

Finally, your heart is the emotional and motivational component. You must gain the motivation to interact with other cultures, even if you make mistakes along the way. 

Make an effort to learn more

It’s difficult to become culturally intelligent if you don’t take the time to learn about other people’s cultures. Fail to educate yourself about other people’s beliefs, values, and customs, and you’ll find it much more challenging to be tolerant, understanding, and appreciative of their differences. 

So, if you work with people from various cultures, take the time to ask questions. You can also find valuable information in books and movies. Use every resource you can to broaden your knowledge and understanding. 

Learn a new language

There are few better ways to become culturally intelligent than learning a new language. Learning a new language is about more than memorizing simple words and phrases; it also involves learning about the people who first spoke it, the historical context, and the origins of different words and phrases. You might find that you’re far more compassionate about culture when you can speak the languages associated with it. 

Learning a new language can also be helpful in your professional life, allowing you to communicate with employees from different backgrounds who appreciate you taking the time to understand more about them. 

Improving your cultural intelligence doesn’t happen overnight, but it will come with time. Always approach different cultures with curiosity, and don’t underestimate the importance and benefits of adopting an inclusive workplace model. The more time and effort you put into interacting with people from other cultures, the more you can benefit personally and professionally.

Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle. 

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