After a busy summer, I am now starting to think about what to write about. My challenge is that there is plenty to write, so I must decide which comes first. As I think about it, I realize that there is one piece mentioned at the beginning of this journey that I have not addressed yet.
What are the five different important pieces of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) one should develop? In my early blogs, I listed CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, CQ Action, and Cultural Humility. In earlier posts, I have addressed the first four, but I have not yet talked about Cultural Humility.
So before we get started in another direction in developing our CQ, I want to address the need for Cultural Humility.
What is Cultural Humility? Let’s define these two words first.
In an earlier blog introducing Culturally Intelligent Communities, I gave the following definition for “Culturally” from which we can define “cultural” –
Culturally – an adjective that describes things related to culture. But what is culture? Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, including language, religion, food, social habits (customs) and behaviors, music and arts, achievements. The group can be a specific nation, people, or other social group, including different generations within a people group.
Then what is “humility?” Dictionary.com says it’s:
“the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.”
The first and fourth definitions of humble here are important to this discussion:
- Not proud or arrogant; modest;
- Courteously respectful.
Humility then is practicing or living with an attitude that is not proud or arrogant and is courteously respectful. How does being humble or practicing humility apply to our view of culture?
Before I answer that question, let me address one more issue. In education, we talk about developing in our students “cultural competence.” In defining “cultural humility,” it is helpful to compare the two ideas.
- Cultural competence focuses on having a required “skill, knowledge, qualification, or capacity related to culture. Cultural competence focuses on ME relating to a particular culture or in cultures in general. I’m the expert; I have the right answers. And the focus is on the end product – competency in a particular culture and skill.
- Cultural humility, on the other hand, focuses on the other: the other person from another culture is the expert and has the answers. I am here to learn from that person, to focus on that person. I ask questions instead providing answers. It’s a lifelong process and attitude of growing instead of an end product. Cultural humility encourages us to look at our own biases, to self-reflect regularly on our attitudes toward the other. I come to the other person with modesty and with a courteous respect for that person and culture.
For us to develop our Cultural Intelligence (CQ), for us to develop Culturally Intelligent Communities, we must cultivate our attitude of cultural humility, to admit we don’t have all the answers and recognizing that we can learn from others from other cultures. We must ask good questions and listen well, without any assumption that we know better.
Develop your Cultural
Humility. Start today!
 I first was introduced to this idea at a conference workshop lead by Tia Gaines in January 2019.
After improving our CQ DRIVE, increasing our CQ KNOWLEDGE, developing our CQ STRATEGY, we then need to put that strategy and knowledge into CQ ACTION. We cannot take in information without a response of action. We are created to respond to learning and knowledge by doing something to reach out to others. It is also taking time to intentionally think through our reactions to those around us, what our responses might be and how to change them so we are more supportive to the others we are reaching out to.
CQ Action (behavior) is your ability to adapt when relating and working interculturally, the degree to which one can appropriately change your verbal and nonverbal actions when a cross-cultural situation requires it. Ultimately, people judge your CQ based upon how you behave.
Let’s walk through the sub-dimensions of CQ Action.
Speech acts are the ways you share information based upon the cultural context. For example, the way you cast vision, the way you offer a compliment, or the way you share constructive feedback should differ based upon the audience.
For example, some cultures are more direct in their negative feedback: “You did xyz wrong.” And other cultures will tip-toe around the topic. Americans talk about sandwiching their negative comments. First, they will say something nice; then throw in what needs to be improved using positive language; then they will say something nice again. People coming from direct language cultures often will wonder what they need to change, if anything. They won’t pick up the negative feedback when sandwiched in the middle of positive words.
Verbal communication refers to how much you adapt things like your volume, rate of speech, and level of enthusiasm when talking cross-culturally.
I can remember my mom coming to visit us in Germany in the mid-1980s. We went to a restaurant. Of course, the waiter only spoke German. My mom spoke only English. When she saw she was not understood, instead of letting me do the translating of her order, she increased her volume. How often have you thought understanding was just a volume issue? Or speaking more quickly?
And non-verbal communication is adapting behaviors such as your facial expressions, your use of gestures, or the way you dress. An example could be how you greet people. Do you bow when you greet someone? It will depend on where you are coming from.
Learning the gestures of a culture are extremely important. Americans may think a certain gesture is fine whereas it may be a curse in another culture. Facial and hand gestures are different around the world. Be careful!!
One of the crucial things to understand is that we shouldn’t always adapt our behavior. At best, it can look humorous, at worse, it can look insulting. The same is true for an organization.
It’s good to think through when we should adapt and when we shouldn’t. How do we know? What are the criteria to decide that? It is good to think that through before you are in a cross-cultural situation. Determine whether a culture is “tight” – very strict in its expectations in relationships – or “loose” – a bit more flexible where mistakes might be less offensive.
Spend some time reflecting on how you can improve your CQ Action. When engaging in a cross-cultural interaction, determine if it’s a “tight” or “loose” culture and adjust your behaviors accordingly. And like the previous slide, always ask yourself if adapting will compromise you or your organization. text-in^$�G
To develop our CQ Knowledge as individuals and as a community, our STRATEGY needs to be established and expanded. What do we need to do to grow our knowledge of those in our communities who are different from us? And what are our hidden biases that may be contributing to the lack of understanding on our part?
CQ Strategy (meta-cognition) is the degree to which you are mindful, aware, and able to plan for multicultural interactions. Individuals with high CQ Strategy develop ways to use their cultural understanding to develop plans for new intercultural situations.
This gets us to a more nuanced understanding of how we should interact cross-culturally. If we only improve our CQ Knowledge, we run the risk of stereotyping people. Not all Indians have a “High Power Distance” orientation and not all Swedes have a “Being” orientation.
CQ Strategy helps us move beyond these simplified norms. You can find a humorous video here where stereotyping is exaggerated, making the point to be careful.
To develop your CQ Strategy, you first need to ask yourself questions. For example, when facing a dilemma, ask what next steps can be used to resolve this challenge? It is also good to think about three different sub-dimensions: planning, awareness, and checking yourself.
Planning means developing a hypothesis or strategizing about what needs to change before a cross-cultural encounter. An example could be thinking about how you’re going to do a performance review differently if the individual comes from a different cultural background. If you are going on a mission trip, think about the possible scenarios you may face and how the other culture may deal with those situations.
To improve your planning, pick a culture different from yours that you interact with often. Make a brief plan of things to remember that you may need to be say or do differently when relating to someone from a culture different from your own.
Awareness refers to being mindful of what’s going on internally (yourself) and externally (others) during a multicultural encounter. Some questions to ask during the interaction include:
- How is my plan working?
- Is this individual behaving the way he/she typically would or is he/she adapting to me?
A good way to develop your awareness is to jot down a few observations immediately following a cross-cultural interaction—things that were different from what you anticipated, things that were unlike when you would do this in your own culture, questions you need to explore further. Be careful to observe. Do not interpret the situation. Yet. (Often interpretations are based on assumptions or hidden biases.)Just observe. Notice things that are different.
What did you observe? What objects do you see? What was different? Use descriptive language.
Then ask yourself, what are some plausible interpretations? Ask the “why” questions.
Become aware of your observations and interpretations.
After doing some planning and increasing awareness, you need to do some checking. This is the degree to which you go back and check your plan, assumptions, and interpretations. You are checking to see whether the plan you made in light of the culture fits what’s going on with this particular group.
To develop your checking, find a cultural broker or coach when doing work in culture other than your own. Discuss your observations with him or her and ask for input. (e.g. “I noticed no one spoke up when I asked the group a question. Why was that?”)
Improve your CQ Strategy. Plan. Develop awareness by noticing and making observations. Avoid mis-interpreting what is going on. And do NOT judge others. Check yourself.
Once we develop our drive and motivation, we need to grow in our KNOWLEDGE of the “others” around us. Are we ready to ask good questions to truly learn about those around us who may be or look different? Or act or think differently? Who are those in our community that are different from us? What do we need to learn about them to help us gain empathy and understanding for them?
CQ Knowledge (cognition) is your understanding about how cultures are similar and different. Individuals with high CQ Knowledge have a rich, well-organized understanding of culture and how it affects the way people think and behave.
When starting to learn about another culture, it is important to recognize there are differences. Things can be quite different. And they may even seem weird to us from our perspective. But someone else might think the way I do things is weird. It’s all about perspective.
To get an idea of perspectives being different instead of weird, watch this video.
An iceberg is often used as a metaphor to explain culture. What we see in a culture is the top of the iceberg, the CONCRETE or SURFACE/BEHAVIORAL culture.This will include things such as food, music, dress, and language. What you can observe and experience in a culture.
Much of the cultural dimensions, things such as individualism vs collectivism and power distance, are just below the surface. This would include things such as how one treats an authority figure or whether the culture values a long term time orientation/focus rather than immediate results. It would also include the communication styles and rules.
Down deep in the iceberg (and our unconscious), we fine the attitudes and approaches to life, things such as our cultural rules about relationships, virtue and vice, and religious beliefs, which do indeed affect our culture. And we have many things in this area that we say, “it goes without saying….”
For example, in my cultural upbringing, I was taught that one does not interrupt someone else when they are speaking. Period. It goes without saying, doesn’t it? However, recently I was talking with a young man who grew up in a household where it was assumed you would interrupt if you wanted to say something. Before I realized the difference in family cultures, I was assuming he would just know that it was wrong to interrupt me (or others) when we were talking. It goes without saying, right? But when I realized that he came from a very different family culture, that helped us have a good conversation about whether and when it’s o.k. to interrupt someone.
There are four sub-dimensions of CQ Knowledge to be aware of and to develop which I will write more about next week.
 I will go into more detail about cultural dimensions in future posts.
First, we must have the DRIVE, the motivation, to grow and learn. Do we WANT our community to be a thriving, healthy, and safe environment where we can all flourish, using our differences for strength? Are we seeing those around us in need rather than someone to judge? Are we willing to do the work of becoming culturally intelligent?
CQ Drive (motivation) is your interest, motivation, and confidence to adapt to multicultural situations.
CQ Drive may seem like common sense but it’s often overlooked. For example, sometimes people are required to go through diversity training but miss seeing its relevance to making them more effective at their jobs. Or someone might sit through training before taking on an overseas assignment but might only appreciate the relevance of the training after they arrive. Therefore, it’s important to intentionally address the issue of Drive.
To develop CQ Drive, there are three sub-dimensions to consider: intrinsic interest, extrinsic interest, and self-efficacy. Let me explain further.
Intrinsic interest is deriving enjoyment from culturally diverse experiences. “Intrinsic” is when it is a part of who you are. An individual with high intrinsic Drive is naturally interested in different cultures and finds it energizing.
It’s okay if you don’t find yourself naturally energized by cross-cultural work; many people don’t. But consider how to build your Drive. One strategy to develop your intrinsic interest is to connect an existing interest you have with an intercultural component. For example, if you like sports, explore sports in a different culture. The same thing can be applied for the arts, etc.
Extrinsic interest is gaining external benefits from culturally diverse experiences. This is the degree to which you see tangible benefits to you personally and/or professionally by being involved in cross-cultural work.
If this is an area of weakness, you might make a list of tangible benefits you can obtain by doing more intercultural work. Remind yourself why this is important in your daily life.
Self-efficacy means having the confidence to be effective in culturally diverse situations. Sometimes, intercultural training focuses too much on the mistakes people make and if we only hear those things, it can erode our self-efficacy and Drive. This is a delicate balance between being a humble learner while also not being so paralyzed by the fear of doing something wrong.
To develop self-efficacy try thinking of a time when you were successful at interacting with someone from a different cultural background. What can you learn from that experience?
Time to reflect: how is your Drive, your motivation, to cross the cultural divide you are facing? Whether it is ethnic, national, generational, or other culturally different situations, how motivated are you to grow and learn and reach out to the person who is different from you? To what degree are you motivated to work with and learn about the culture/s involved in this situation? Don’t overlook the essential role of CQ Drive.
Are you convinced yet how important it is to develop your cultural intelligence, your CQ?
Cultural intelligence (CQ) is defined as: the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts (national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.).
If you are convinced, you may be wondering, how do I get there? In an earlier blog, I laid out five challenging but important steps towards improving our CQ. Before I start into explaining the different steps in more detail, I thought I would first explain the research that has gone into four of the five steps.
To give you a little background, cultural intelligence or CQ was developed as a concept to provide an overarching theoretical framework to tie together the numerous intercultural models into an academically valid way of conceptualizing and measuring the capability of cultural competence. The driving question behind the cultural intelligence research is: Why can some individuals move in and out of lots of varied cultures easily and effectively while others can’t?
The cultural intelligence research stems from academic scholars all over the world. The question behind the research is this: What’s the difference between individuals and organizations that succeed in today’s globalized, multicultural world and those that fail?
The primary research question is not: “Who are the culturally sensitive?” (because you can be culturally sensitive and still not be effective). Nor is it “Who are the culturally aware?”—because awareness isn’t enough.
Instead, the researchers at the Cultural Intelligence Center were interested in discovering what characteristics consistently emerge among those who can effectively move in and out of many different cultures.
Based upon research from more than 65 countries, and surveying more than 35,000 global professionals, there are some answers.
The research reveals that the culturally intelligent—individuals who effectively accomplish their objectives regardless of the cultural context—have strengths in four key capabilities: CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action. They can also be thought of as four steps to developing CQ.
CQ Drive (motivation) is your interest, drive and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation.
CQ Knowledge (cognition) is your understanding about how cultures are similar and different.
CQ Strategy (meta-cognition) is your awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions.
CQ Action (behavior) is your ability to adapt when relating and working interculturally.
Here is a video that helps explain the four capabilities.
What is the DNA of Cultural Intelligence or CQ? Culturally intelligent people have strengths in 4 capabilities: drive, knowledge, strategy, and action. Over the next several blogs, I will explain each of these in more detail. I will also discuss a fifth capability that is not in the research and is from my (and others’) experience: cultural humility.
 Information for this post comes mostly from the Cultural Intelligence Center training materials.
He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!
The call to one another on Easter (or Resurrection Day as some of us like to say) is as ancient as the Christian religion.
Our tendency to be against one another is more ancient, since Cain and Abel.
And yet, there’s hope. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
It is because of Christ’s resurrection that we are who we are: followers of Christ. That includes being willing to learn to be culturally intelligent, to care for the people who are different from us, whether different in ethnicity, nationality, religious affiliation or none, generation or gender.
It is because of the resurrection we have the power to rise above our own selfish focus, our tendency to think our culture, our lifestyle, our language, our choices, our opinions as better than another.
Some points to remind us of events after the resurrection:
- Matthew 28:19 – Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations,”
- Acts 1:8 – Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
- Jerusalem: In Acts 2, at the time when the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples, there were Jews from “every nation under heaven.” (vs 5) The disciples started speaking in several languages, such that people heard “each in his own native language.” (vs 8) There was not an endorsement of just one language.
- Samaria: Acts 8:14-17, we see Jews and “despised” Samaritans praying together.
- End of the earth: In Acts 10:9-35, we hear the struggle Peter faced when told by God to minister to those people, the Gentiles.
The Gospel was spreading as the apostles were obedient to cross cultures with the good news.
Because of the resurrection,
We are called as Christians to a new unity not based on our tribal allegiances. In Christ “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free.” Instead there are those putting on “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” toward one another regardless of their cultural origins. (Colossians 3:11-14) In Christ, who is the “image of the invisible God,” we are called back to being God’s image, a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue in whom the Creator can be glimpsed.
Though “we are fallen humans,” because of the resurrection we are “dying to self and being raised with Christ as we share God’s grace with others who share our condition.”
- Romans 10:12 – For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”
- Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
- Galatians 5:6 – “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
- Ephesians 3:6 – “This mystery is that the Gentiles [or any “other”] are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” [my addition]
“Cultural intelligence is more than just a politically correct agenda for diversity and multiculturalism. Jesus’ life and death are what made it possible for us to seriously consider moving beyond the desire to love the Other and actually doing it.”
He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!
 Smith, D.I. & Dykstra-Pruim, P. (2016). Christians and Cultural Difference. Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press.
 Livermore, D.A. (2009). Cultural Intelligence: Improving your CQ to engage our multicultural world. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.