There are many aspects of culture — shared language, traditions, norms, beliefs and customs. Regardless of the culture, successful interactions across cultures are built on respect, trust and the ability to communicate effectively. Use the following tips to build your cross-cultural relationships:
1. Examine your personal biases. Face it! We all have biases and there is research to prove it. Often, biases are unconscious, so start with self-reflection and examine your attitudes and behaviors towards people from other cultures. Acknowledge your biases and work to mitigate and eliminate them.
2. Seek to understand. Don’t make assumptions. Ideally you want to learn about different cultures through a variety of credible sources – your own personal relationships, books, travel, research and ongoing education.
3. Keep an open mind. Avoid stereotypes. Expand your base by building a broad cross-section of relationships – gender, race, sexual orientation, abilities, country of origin and people who think differently from you. Read articles and books about diversity, inclusion and belonging.
4. Start with “who you know.” The best place to start is with others who you know inside and outside of your organization, business, association, place of worship, and social organizations. Show interest and support for others outside of your usual “go to” circle.
5. Network across cultures. Professional organizations, cultural events, conferences, diversity forums, minority business expos and community events are all great places to network. Stretch beyond your comfort zone and reach out to people who are different from you.
6. Get involved. Volunteer and partner with groups and organizations where you can add value, while interacting and getting to know others from different backgrounds and cultures. It will take time to build trust and to establish authentic relationships, so think long-term.
7. Keep your word. Establishing trust is the key to sustained successful relationships and it takes time. If you say you’re going to do something – do it! Show up for others and be fully present.
8. Assume positive intent. At some point miscommunication is likely to occur. It happens to all humans. When this occurs, don’t give up. Be respectful and communicate! Assume positive intent and continue on the journey. Stay the course and build meaningful relationships, friendships and allyship.