Culturally Intelligent Communities – How do we get there? – Cultural Humility

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?” 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:

  1. Not proud or arrogant; modest;
  2. 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[1] 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.[2] 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!


[2] I first was introduced to this idea at a conference workshop lead by Tia Gaines in January 2019.

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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