Having cultural agility does not depend on memorizing a list of what-to-do’s and what-not-to-do’s. It involves learning about cultural variations, developing self awareness and applying your knowledge in a flexible, reflective manner. While the following article discusses situations and examples of people living overseas, here in Toronto we could all benefit from increasing our cross-cultural competence, given that many of us have neighbours and colleagues, and hopefully some friends, from different locations in the world.
I believe the key here is to develop self-awareness. It is a difficult and never-ending process but so important in all communication processes. When we consider how much information and stimulus is pouring into our brains every second and the tiny percentage we can really process, learning to focus our attention and remain open can be quite challenging, yet this is what we need to do if we want to bridge the assumptions and patterns we all have.
The following article expands on the importance of delving in beyond superficial cultural observations and discusses some ways to strengthen our cross-cultural agility.