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Blog – Intercultural Competencies & Leadership

By Sarah-Jane McSweeney

In our careers we work with many different people and companies. Each time we meet a different person or join a new company or group of people we need to take stock and learn how to adapt our communication styles, welcome the introduction of “Intercultural Competencies”.

As we come out of the second lockdown and re-enter the workplace, we will need to have to readapt to changes within the working conditions and potentially finally meet some of our colleagues face to face for the first time.  This is where the use of intercultural competencies methodology will come in its own.

At the CamAWiSE workshop in April, Danielle Feger of Equilibrium4Wellbeing introduced us to the concept of Intercultural Competencies. 

Culture is defined as “The collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others” or more commonly known “The way we do things around here”.

Firstly, we considered what culture was and found the answer to this was as variable as the people at the workshop. Why was this? Well, the answer is as we have our own personality and culture which influences us to see things from different angles and perspectives.  To enable us to move from one cultural environment to another efficiently, we need to not only consider our culture but the culture we are moving into.  Edward T Hall considered that there were two types of culture High and Low context cultures.

Low context dimensionsHigh context dimensions
Explicit information

Direct communication

Words chosen carefully
Implicit information

Nuanced communications (the need to read between the lines)

Attention needed on what is not said

It was noted that it was easier to enter the Low context compared to the high context culture.  Bearing this in mind understand each of these different culture areas and it’s where cultural intelligence comes in.  This is made up of:

  • Knowledge
  • Mindfulness
  • Skill

Out of the three areas above, for me the one which influenced me during the workshop was mindfulness as coming from a low context culture it is an area which is of importance as practice covers the learning to pay attention to the cues in situation encountered, reflect on them, and relate them to our own knowledge and feelings.  This will then allow us to develop our skills to deal with situations in the future allowing us to become more competent.

The workshop allowed me to see how using culture competencies within my work could help avoid potential conflicts and misunderstandings.

CamAWiSE would like to thank Danielle for her informative and engaging workshop.

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