vrijdag 3 januari 2014

Developing a Multicultural Mindset

Having a solid multicultural outlook is more important today than ever before. The current global economy, rising immigration and increased outsourcing are just a few of the reasons as to why it is necessary to adopt a multicultural frame of mind.

What is a ‘multicultural mindset’?

The term ‘multicultural mindset’ concerns nurturing the capacity a person has to employ multiple perspectives. These perspectives require the same respect as our own and this is key to the successful development of an awareness of the nuances of other cultures.

Why is it necessary to develop a multicultural mindset?

All worldviews are learned within a particular cultural perspective. This is sometimes referred to as ‘ethnocentrism’ – the tendency to view and interpret the behaviour of others through a personal cultural lens. While this is perfectly normal, it can potentially cloud our judgement of situations when other cultures are involved. It is therefore necessary to have an outlook that considers other perspectives in a situation, not just our own.

In business, with a global increase in the amount of outsourcing, foreign workers, and multicultural consulting, it’s important to understand how the integration of more cultures affects interpersonal communication within a professional context. An awareness and ability to work harmoniously with other cultures will open doors for businesses and enable them to thrive.

What obstacles occur when developing a multicultural mindset?

Developing this cultural mindset can, for many, be easier said than done. There are sometimes issues that stem from a fear of the ‘unknown’ that are brought about simply by the unfamiliarity of other cultures. People are generally comfortable with what is ‘normal’ for them, and far less so with things that are unusual. It can be this unfamiliarity that creates obstacles when trying to develop this understanding.

Another issue that can create obstacles is the way that different cultures assign value. There can often be potential misunderstandings when two different value systems come up against each other. Certainly, one would not expect a person to change their own belief system in order to accommodate another. What it comes down to is finding mutual respect for all value systems, and indeed, all belief systems. But how does one go about doing this?

 The ‘strange’ practices of other cultures become far less strange when explained and given cultural context. Learning about other cultures and what they represent to the people within them encourages the compassionate view necessary for developing a healthy multicultural view of the world.

With so many potential cultures to consider in the present day, it is important to adapt things such as office etiquette to accommodate the cultures of all employees. In the past, this has been an area of contention but with the right education and understanding, it can work very well.

The best way to learn about other cultures is to speak to people of those cultures. Encouraging an open forum, whereby individuals can both ask questions and feel comfortable to answer questions asked of them, is a brilliant way to get everyone on the same page.

Developing a multicultural mindset can be a difficult thing to do, especially for individuals who have only been exposed to one or two cultures in their lives. However, it is a great asset to have in the exciting, multicultural world we live in, and taking the time to get the right perspective can be incredibly rewarding.