Cultural Intelligence – How do we get there? Knowledge Part One

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.Cultural-Iceberg-2This 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[1], 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.


[1] I will go into more detail about cultural dimensions in future posts.

Author: Leslie P Johnson

Christ follower, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, love children, dogs, and horses and love to hike, and I am helping develop Culturally Intelligent Communities (CIC)

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