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5 steps to building your intercultural fluency

Last night, I wrapped up my final learning facilitation for 2021, an inaugural course on the Foundations of #Intercultural #Competency that I designed and taught at McMaster University Continuing Education. You can find more about that program here.

Through a series of exploring theoretical models, case studies and corporate reports, videos, and readings, coupled with lots of dialogue and reflective self-reflection #Flipgrid videos, the evening session capped off an examination of building intercultural fluency or competence and the relationships to deepening engagements with diversity, equity, inclusion in our spheres of engagement.

Taking a course can be valuable investment and I always encourage ongoing learning. However, there are always considerations about time and money. So, for now, I wanted to give you 5 steps that you can practise now to start (or continue) building your #intercultural #fluency. These are activities you can do wherever you are located and in a myriad of ways. You don't have to travel to another culture to start thinking about #intercultural #fluency or #competence; rather, in this time of ever-burgeoning circulations of corona variants, travel may not be in your near future. Nonetheless, you can take this time, on the cusp of the holiday season, to act on some of these #attitudes and #skills to build your #intercultural #fluency.

  1. Make friends with people from other cultures.

Remember, culture is not merely our ethnic cultural identity. We have multiple cultural identities, based on age, generation, sexuality, region, occupation, political and religious beliefs, and so forth. Combat your preconceived bias and assumptions, shirk off the prevalence of stereotypes, and start building a bridge to others by making a new friend.

2. Be the minority: #immerse yourself in situations to have intercultural #dialogue

As part of getting to know others, be the 'minority,'; that is, immerse yourself in situations that are outside of your own comfort zone. You want to be able to have an opportunity to start questioning your own habits, beliefs, expectations of yourselves and others, all of which relates to bracketing bias and becoming more of it. There's no better way to do it than to stick out like a sore thumb: think sports fan at an art opening (they could be a couple of city blocks away, but a world apart!) It does take some #courage, but it will allow you to work on your capacity for #empathy. And, while you're there, listen, ask a question, and maybe, start making a new friend.

3. Be #curious

It's hard to learn anything new if you don't have a curiosity about the subject. Well, it's very difficult to learn about yourself and others, if you are not curious. Be open to new sights, smells, sounds and tastes. Fold it into your holiday plans: try out a new recipe, go shop at a different part of town, listen to a podcast, or Christmas carols sung in another language!

4. Actively #listen and be #empathetic:

In your everyday interactions, be it with family, friends, colleagues and strangers, notice differences in communication styles and values. These vary across cultures, expressing deeply-held values, beliefs and worldview. For example, some styles emphasize verbal assertiveness, logical thinking, matter-of-fact tone and an individualist outlook, while other styles might reflect notions of hierarchy and power, understated tones of delivery, and uses of silence. #Power differences emerge in people's communication styles: some people are used to being heard while others who are used to deferring to others, may not speak up. That's when your skills in #empathy and #active #listening becomes ever more important in your learning.

5. Be willing to take risks

Learning is often tied to making mistakes and taking #risks. In fact, think about how you learned to ride a bicycle, or drive a car, or navigate your first day of high school. There were likely mishaps, but #intercultural #fluency is highly #experiential. Like learning a language, it has to be attempted and there is always a risk that you will be misunderstood and cause embarrassment, either to yourself or to others. Too often these days, we are too afraid to make a mistake. That, unfortunately, does not lead to improvements in understanding each other. So, like the truism of a lot of learning, treat a setback as a learning opportunity to grow and build your #intercultural #fluency.

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