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Cultural Competence Starts with Intercultural Consciousness


If you’re a business professional working in an international setting, then you’ll understand the importance placed on cultural competence.

Whether it’s recruitment, promotion or performance development - the need for cultural competence is of increasing importance in business.

Culturally competent staff help ensure companies don’t flounder or jeopardise their brand through ill-considered ventures.

They are more likely to avoid common cross-cultural mistakes such as miscommunications or cultural faux pas and they are best placed to develop campaigns that drive business outcomes.

If you are someone that needs to develop their cultural competence, then a good place to start is by developing intercultural consciousness.

Being conscious of culture is an essential first step in developing cultural competence.

Once you have established cultural consciousness and developed the awareness that evolves from this, then further steps can be taken to promote your development.

Let’s explore this further.

Free Sample of our eLearning Course on Cultural Competence!

See the Link at End of the Page.

1. Be conscious of intercultural situations

Culturally competent professionals understand cultural frameworks, which in turn enables them to interpret cross-cultural interactions.

By being conscious of culture, they gain the skills and insights to read between the lines and perceive, for example, when a smile is genuine, or when it is masking offence.

If you work in a multicultural environment, then take the time to reflect upon the encounters taking place in your organisation and how culture could be shaping them.

Think about what is happening and consider whether cultural conditioning may be influencing the behaviours you see.

If your colleagues are struggling to deliver tasks across cultures, then consider why.

Think about your own behaviours and reactions too. Why have you responded or reacted this way?

Customer service agent

If your business has international customers, you need to pay attention to cultural differences.

Click here to read how two US companies failed to do exactly that!

Photo by Berkeley Communications on Unsplash

2. Learn about your own culture

When learning about culture, it’s common for people to want to launch straight into learning about the culture of others.

However, it’s important to start the process by first understanding yourself and your own cultural frameworks.

By understanding your personal cultural values and exploring important areas such as what you find acceptable/unacceptable, then you are better placed to appreciate how you will react when placed into different intercultural scenarios.

It will also help you understand your likely impact on others.

 3. Learn about different cultures

Take the time to learn about the cultures of your colleagues.

If, for example, you work with Japanese colleagues, then start learning about Japanese business culture.

By understanding Japanese cultural values and business etiquette, you’ll soon be able to interpret why your Japanese colleagues might behave the way they do.

You will also gain the insights needed to anticipate their responses to situations and interactions.

This understanding will help you adapt your behaviour, where necessary, to get better outcomes and to make a good impression.

Our site is jam-packed with complimentary culture guides. Why not use this as a starting point?

Two diverse business women at table

Working with people from different cultures means you need to show some flexibility.

Read more here about cultural competence and the ability to adapt

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

4. Be aware of stereotypes

If you start meeting people from a cultural background that you are unfamiliar with, then you may find yourself drawing upon stereotypes and generalisations.

Try to avoid this by making a conscious effort to engage with an open and unbiased mind.

Further, why not counteract potential stereotypes in the workplace by sharing positive experiences of your interactions with your colleagues.

5. Give cross-cultural interactions ample time

Time is an important factor in any cross-cultural interaction.

As such, it’s important that you don’t hurry interactions.

Allow sufficient time for discussion and ask open-ended questions to ensure that all parties understand what is needed and that they are happy with the approach.

During your interactions, be conscious of how your colleagues are responding to you.

Look for clues in their body language, facial expressions and what isn’t said, as well as what is said.

Speak less and listen more. Hurrying interactions puts you at risk of miscommunication and reduced outcomes.

Becoming Culturally Competent

These are simple, yet effective steps in developing your cultural competence.

By being culturally conscious, you will have taken the most important step in your journey.

Online Course from Commisceo


If you’d like to expand upon your understanding further, then why not sign up for our eLearning Cultural Competence online course?

Immediately available, this course is jam-packed with everything you need to know when working across cultures.



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