CQ – How are we different? Part Six – Uncertainty Avoidance

In the past few weeks, we have looked at what is culture and what cultural dimensions are. We also looked at different cultural dimensions: individualism versus collectivism, power distance, and cooperative versus competitive cultures. Today, we will discuss how uncertainty avoidance can be an interesting dimension of culture.

Uncertainty Avoidance is the extent to which risk is reduced or avoided through planning and guidelines. A person with Low Uncertainty Avoidance typically acts first and then gets the information. People with this orientation are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty and prefer to figure things out as they go.

In contrast, a person with High Uncertainty Avoidance appreciates explicit instructions, relies on formal procedures and policies, and is uncomfortable with ambiguity. People with a high uncertainty avoidance orientation will try to eliminate any uncertainty by planning or tradition.

This one can be personality, right? We all know people within our own cultures who may be higher risk takers or want everything clear before they start out. Another way you can see this kind of difference will be in jobs and expectations. “People working in legal and accounting will typically score more toward the High Uncertainty Avoidance side of the graph while individuals in a function like sales or recruitment will often score more toward the Low Uncertainty Avoidance side.” [1]

When you are struggling with a conflict with someone, it’s worth looking at the issue closely and try to discern if it’s culture. Think about the situation in which you are struggling. Might it be an issue of someone being flexible and tolerant of ambiguity versus someone who prefers more planning and certainty? With colleagues, how does this influence your team dynamics?

How about you? Where do you fall on the continuum? Don’t forget – there is nothing better or worse about where you scored. And understanding your preference as compared to your colleagues or students or neighbors can be very helpful.


Low                                         Uncertainty Avoidance                        High

Look at the comparison of the countries of China, Hungary, and the US, in Uncertainty Avoidance.[2] Does this surprise you? It surprises me! Here, the higher the number, the more the person will want to avoid uncertainty. China’s number is 30, Hungary’s 82, and the US has 46.

Some tips:

With people who have Low Uncertainty Avoidance:

  • Avoid dogmatic statements
  • Invite them to explore solutions

With people who have High Uncertainty Avoidance:

  • Give explicit instructions
  • Rely on formalized procedures and policies

Keep in mind. These are suggestion. If you are working with students, you may want to help them change one direction or another. For example, you may not want them to be dependent on receiving explicit instructions forever. So, you may want to think about ways to move them to have a lower uncertainty avoidance.

If you have ideas or questions or stories about cultures with either low or high uncertainty avoidance, or have an example of a culture clash you wonder about, please write me at lesliepjohnson@lesliepjohnson.com and I will try to address that issue at some point in this blog.

[1] Developing CQ Workshop: Facilitator Manual. (2019)Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center.

[2] Taken from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/ where you can put in up to three countries to compare cultural dimensions.


CQ – How are we different? Part Five – Competitive versus Cooperative Cultures

In the past few weeks, we have looked at what is culture and what cultural dimensions are. We also looked at two different cultural dimensions: individualism versus collectivism, and power distance. Today, we will look at the dimension that compares cooperative cultures and competitive cultures.

Cooperative-Competitive (also known as feminine/masculine cultures) refers to how you prefer to accomplish results. Someone from a cooperative culture believes the best way to accomplish results is by getting people to work together. Someone who is cooperative builds trust by focusing more on relationships. People from this culture are often nurturing, compassionate, and empathetic.[1]

However, someone who is from a competitive culture believes people will be most motivated to accomplish results when there’s competition involved. This person builds trust based on achievement, putting tasks first, and tends to be more independent and assertive.[2],[3]

Notice that you can be both collectivist and competitive. It’s just that if you are collectivist and competitive, you want your team/group to win. And you can be cooperative while also being individualistic.

Also, there can be a lot of misunderstanding. “Both orientations are concerned about results and both care about relationships. But there’s a different priority in how to most effectively get things done.[4]

Look at the comparison of these three countries in Cooperative and Competitive dimensions. (Please note: in Hofstede’s discussion of this dimension, he uses “feminine” instead of cooperative and “masculine” instead of competitive.) Here the higher the number, the more competitive the culture.[5] China is blue; Hungary is in the middle with purple; and the US is on the right with green. Their numbers out of 100 are 66, 88, and 62. I am always a bit surprised that the US is closer to the middle than I would expect. And I am also surprised how high Hungary is in the competitive culture.

In these helpful tips, notice the difference here: relationship vs task.

When working with people from a cooperative culture,

  • Establish relationship before task, taking time to get to know your colleagues and staff before jumping into what “needs to be done.”
  • Communicate with your colleagues to build rapport before, during, and after the task at hand.

When working with people from a competitive culture,

  • Focus on the task first.
  • Communicate to report information.

Here is a line continuum. Where do you fall?


Cooperative                                                                     Competitive

Please remember, there is no right or proper way here. One end or the other is not more or less correct.

If you have ideas or questions or stories about competitive or cooperative cultures, or have an example of a culture clash you wonder about, please write me at lesliepjohnson@lesliepjohnson.com and I will try to address that issue at some point in this blog.

[1] Livermore, D.A. & Slagter, J. (2015). CQ Ministry Kit. Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC.

[2] Livermore, D.A. & Slagter, J. (2015). CQ Ministry Kit. Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC.

[3] Cultural Intelligence Center. (2019). Developing CQ Workshop: Facilitator Manual. Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC.

[4] Cultural Intelligence Center. (2019). Developing CQ Workshop: Facilitator Manual. Holt, MI: Cultural Intelligence Center, LLC.

[5] Taken from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/ where you can put in up to three countries to compare cultural dimensions.

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?” 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:

  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!

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/competence?s=t

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

Guest Blog – The Multi-Ethnic Church Proclaims Jesus’ Ultimate Worth, Part 1

While living in Prague, Czech Republic, my husband and I attended the International Church of Prague which had many different cultures represented. It was a blessing to us to be a part of God’s global community. Recently, we heard a great sermon by the senior pastor, Drew Stephens, who laid out the calling of Christians and the Church to be multi-ethnic.

Due to my recent move and the busyness of settling in, I asked Drew to turn that sermon into a guest blog here. Enjoy. Be challenged.

The multi-ethnic Church proclaims Jesus’ ultimate worth.  God is most glorified when people from many cultures and ethnicities worship Him in unity, transformed by the gospel into a gathering reconciled to God and one another.  Therefore, the loving pursuit of all ethne[1] (tribe, race, language, people and nation) must be a core value for the church. Furthermore, God’s glory is the vital motivation that empowers the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-20).

The Reformers proclaimed: “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”[2]  The ultimate purpose of humanity is to display the beauty and greatness of God. Revelation 5 declares why Jesus alone is worthy of glory.  And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You …, for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 NASB). This great hymn boldly proclaims Jesus’ divinity[3] and the proof of Jesus’ immeasurable worth. The ultimate expression of Jesus’ glory is the redeeming and reconciling of peoples from every ethnos.

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of the Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday Morning.”[4] King’s statement should have been a clarion call that the church had drifted from both Jesus’ great commandment and great commission; “to go and make disciples of allpeople groups (ethne)”[5] (Matthew 28:19). However, most churches remain homogeneous. A 2015 LifeWay Research study revealed that 67 percent of American church goers believe that their church has done enough to become racially diverse.[6]  Nevertheless, 9 out of 10 U.S. congregations contain more than 80 percent from a single racial group,[7] and nearly-half of the congregations in America are ethnically similar.[8] 

People naturally drift toward homogeneous congregations.  The pull of the familiar is incredibly powerful no matter what ethne a person most identifies with.  Progress has been made and significant works are available that offer practical steps for the church to move forward.[9] However, tangible solutions often prove difficult to implement. In part, there is a blindness within a homogeneous church to its own prejudice[10].  Within American evangelical churches “White Privilege,”[11] is rarely recognized by those who enjoy its opportunities, making it difficult for them to comprehend the challenges faced by other ethne.  In contrast, Jesus is multicultural. Jesus overcame the fall of humanity and the division that resulted from human rebellion.  His sacrificial death declared the infinite value of every race and people.  His ministry was repeatedly targeted to those outside of the religious and ethnic norms of Judaism.  He pursued the Samaritan woman at the well, celebrated the Roman Centurion’s faith, and healed the Canaanite woman’s daughter.  Each ethne is a facet revealing the love, power and beauty of Christ’s redemption in its own unique ways.  Jesus, in his high priestly prayer of John 17, passionately intercedes for his followers of every ethne to be unified in him. 

[1] ethne (εθνη) –For the purpose of this essay ethne will be used to refer to people groups as referenced in Matthew 28:19.

[2] Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1647

[3] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 358.

[4] Martin Luther King speaking on “Meet the Press” NBC Television April 17, 1960.

[5] Matthew 28:19 (παντα τα εθνη) “panta ta ethne” – to all nations or people groups

[6] LifeWay Research: “Sunday Morning in America Still Segregated – and That’s OK With Worshipers,” by Bob Smietana, January 15, 2015.

[7] Michael O. Emerson with Rodney M. Woo, People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 40.

[8] Dougherty, Kevin D. and Kimberly R. Huyser. 2008. Racially diverse congregations: Organizational identity and the accommodation of differences. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 47(1): 23–43.

[9] Emerson, Michael, Smith, Christian, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (p. 120). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. Note: “Divided by Faith,” offers four practical solutions to help bridge the racial divide in churches.  1. Try to get to know people of another race 2. Work against discrimination in the job market and legal system 3. Work to racially integrate congregations 4. Work to racially integrate residential neighborhoods

[10] This is called “unconscious bias” and will be addressed in later blogs.

[11] Naidoo, M., 2017, ‘The potential of multicultural congregations in supporting social reconciliation’, HTS Teologiese Studies/ Theological Studies 73(4), a4622. https://doi. org/10.4102/hts.v73i4.4622.  p3 “Meaningful conversations and changes are additionally muted in that whites typically embrace individualism and don’t see themselves as raced or enjoying advantages.”

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.

Easter and Cultural Intelligence

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.refugee-1532326_1280

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.[1]

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.”[2]

  • 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.”[3]

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!cross-2713356_1280




[1] Smith, D.I. & Dykstra-Pruim, P. (2016). Christians and Cultural Difference. Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Livermore, D.A. (2009). Cultural Intelligence: Improving your CQ to engage our multicultural world. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences, A Christian Perspective, Part Two

In my previous blog, I referred to the old phrase: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.[1]” We talked about what are the essentials for Christians, as well as what the non-essentials might be.

And then I mentioned “Charity.” What is Charity? To review, charity is the old term for love. Here is where we get the command to love one another as he has loved us. It does not say love one another if they agree with you. Or if they look like you. Or if they have the same religion!children-2857263_1280 corrected

As Christians, we are called to love one another, but also to love our neighbor. Sometimes it is clear we are to love fellow believers. But Jesus made it clear in his parable that we often call the “Good Samaritan,” that we are to love others, even if they are different from us.

 If you look carefully at this story found in Luke 10:25-37, there are some points to note:

  • The scribe asking the questions assumed two things:
    • That being a part of the “kingdom of God” meant being Jewish (both ethnically and in obedience to the Law);
    • That loving our neighbor meant loving our fellow people of God.
  • Jesus did not tell where the stranger was from.
  • The “good guys” (the priest and the Levite) didn’t do the right thing.
  • The “bad guy” did. Why was he the “bad” guy to the “expert in the Law” asking the question? He was a (gasp) despised
  • Jesus asks, “who is the neighbor?” but doesn’t give the guy who got beat up as one of the options. Jesus calls us to BE a good neighbor. And he calls us to do this across good-samaritan-1037334_1280cultures, to reach out to those who are different from us.[2]

We must look around us. To whom should we be a neighbor? We must look within ourselves and ask, who are we called to be a neighbor to but we find it a challenge? We don’t want to be a neighbor to that person! Who is that? Prayerfully ask God to show you.

 That does not mean we have to agree. There is a lot of diversity in this world. A lot. I do not agree with my husband sometimes. (Another gasp!) But I still choose to love him. We all can learn to agree to disagree. (See my blog on agreeing to disagree and a Christian perspective on dealing with differences, part one)

Now, as Christians, where is the line for agreeing to disagree? Go back to the question of essentials. Look for areas of agreement, recognize those things in which we agree, and prayerfully discern what are not essentials that we can chose to disagree and let go of the argument.

That is how we agree to disagree and still respect and love one another with dignity.


 [1] Ross, Mark. “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius.” For more information, see this site.

[2] For more explanation of this parable, see David I. Smith’s Learning from the Stranger: Christian faith and cultural diversity. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences, A Christian Perspective, Part One

For those of us who are followers of Christ, our unity is in Christ. Full stop. Perhaps you have heard this old phrase: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.[1]

  • What are the essentials for a Christian? A belief in Jesus Christ as our personal savior – faith alone; a belief and trust in the Holy Bible as our one source of Truth – Scripture alone. That’s it! Here is where we have our unity.bible-1031288_1280
  • What are the non-essentials? Things such as baptism, political parties, gun control, role of women in the church, etc. Here we can allow liberty and difference of opinion. If we are using the Scriptures as our basis for discussion, we will often come up with different interpretations and opinions. We must allow for those differences of opinions.
  • What is Charity? Charity is the old term for love. Here is where we get the command to love one another as he has loved us. It does not say love one another if they agree with you. Or if they look like you. Or if they have the same religion!

So, how do we do this? First, we can know there is Truth. True objective absolute truth. In our culture, that idea is not popular. However, we can and should encourage and remind one another that there IS Truth. How do we know that? We have the Bible that tells us of a God that is beyond our earthly knowledge, that is transcendent and other-worldly. HE has established Truth. It is not dependent on our experiences, emotions, “facts,” nor culture. Those all can change. But God. Does. Not. Change! There is Truth and we can know it.

However, and this is the BIG however. We are fallen people. None of us can perfectly understand Truth or interpret the Bible. We learn things and then later learn we (or the pastor or teacher or ???) were wrong. (Gasp!) The Bible tells us our hearts are “deceitfully wicked.” We want to convince ourselves all the time that we have it right, that we interpret the Bible correctly, that we know God’s mind. And those people don’t!

How absurd! How arrogant!

We must always, always relate to Scripture and the people around us with humility. We might get things wrong. We might interpret something differently than someone else and find out they were right. Or maybe they were wrong, and we were right. When will we find out? In heaven. Perhaps sooner, but maybe not before then.

In relating to the people in our lives with whom we disagree, we must always have a spirit of humility. We must recognize our propensity to get things wrong.

Also, we must always treat one another with respect and dignity. Though I may disagree with you, I still recognize God’s image in you. You are valuable. You are loved. You are human. You are worthy of my respect and dignity and kindness.

We must stop. Stop denigrating someone when they do not agree with us. Stop complaining that they are doing something we do not like.* Stop. Just stop. Do not say anything if it cannot be respectful, full of dignity toward other people. Just stop.

Let yourself be challenged this week to show unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity to all.


*Complaining about something we do not like is not the same as speaking out against evil, such as sexual and/or child abuse.

[1] Ross, Mark. “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius.” For more information, see this site.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Agreeing to Disagree

When do we strive for unity? And when do we need to agree to disagree?

Because we are diverse, and because unity is different parts being combined into a unified whole (see the March 9 blog on Unity), we have a choice.

  • Do we just conduct our lives living as separate people, not connecting, not living in community where we care for one another and really communicate?disagree-1099579_1280


  • Do we choose to live in community, striving for a unity in the midst of diverse people?

If we do not choose to live in community, by default, we choose to live as individuals all doing our own thing.

The challenge, however, is that as soon as we choose to be in community, there will be diversity, whether of race, nationality, religion, opinions about politics or gender, and generations.

When I got married, there was a choice to start our family, a new community. Right from the start, two people living together with different opinions. Yes, we were the same race, same religion, same generation. But we were two different people. Different personalities (extrovert vs introvert). Different family upbringing (somewhat peaceful vs sparks flying often). Different birth order (#2 of 4 vs #5 of 5). Different regional backgrounds (suburb vs farm/small town). This impacted how we related to one another. And there were indeed disagreements for things as basic as what time should we arrive at church.argument-238529_1280

If this is just two people, what happens when you add more people? The more people you add to the community, the more likelihood of differences showing up. Diversity is inevitable. Thus, living in community is messy.

In the Bible, there is a verse that says, “Without oxen, the stable stays clean.” (NLT) If you don’t have oxen in your stables, there will be no dung. If you don’t have people, you don’t have the messiness of life. But we can’t live that way, without people.

We must make a choice to live in community, to be with people. And to be with people calls us to aim for unity within the diversity. With the messiness in a diverse group of people comes the need to learn the art of compromise, learning to find a middle ground. But what if we have completely different ideas or opinions on something? We must learn to agree to disagree.

How does one do that?

  • First, remind yourself:
    • that the other person is a fellow human, deserving respect and dignity and kindness, even if they disagree with you!
    • that often people have a lot in common even amid diversity. Ask yourself, what do you have in common with this person? Sometimes people are heading toward the same goal but with different means.
  • Secondly, get some perspective. Realize that unless it is a life and death situation, who wins an argument will not be important 10 years from now. No one will remember.
  • Thirdly, let it go. It won’t help you nor the other person to come out on top. If you are arguing about religion or football teams, trying to change the other person’s opinion will do no good. For them or for you.

Share opinions. Don’t be afraid of discussing differences. But respect one another in the process. And agree in the end to disagree.handshake-4040911_1280

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Diversity

NOTE: I wrote this blog a week before the New Zealand terror attack. As I post it, I am grieving the loss of life and senseless, cold-hearted killing that happened. The importance of understanding the idea of diversity is NOT about saying one group is better than another. Let me be blunt: white supremacy is NOT right nor is it biblical. White people are never better than others of different colors. I could go on, but I will let you read the original blog. Let me know what you think.

 If we don’t have to agree to be unified (see last week’s blog), what is diversity, then? If unity is putting together different parts to make a whole, we need to understand “different” – diversity. What is diversity and is it a good thing?

Here are some definitions[1]:

  • the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness
  • variety; multiformity
  • the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.
  • a point of difference

In the Merriam-Webster[2] dictionary, we find diversity to be:

  • the condition of having or being composed of differing elementsVARIETY

Variety. Difference. There is a lot of variety and difference in this world. However, we must be careful with our definition of diversity. David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center says, “Diversity is sometimes used to broadly include any kind of difference, such as difference in personality, skills, working styles, tenure, and thinking. But if diversity includes everything it end up meaning nothing.”[3] (Livermore, 8)

I have heard people refer to “diversity fatigue” where we are just tired of talking about it. Most companies and schools now require “diversity training” which often ends up being a “let’s all love one another and be happy” kind of training. And then there are those who talk about the word “diversity” having been hijacked and ineffective in talking about the hard issues of differences.

And yet, this world is diverse. We do have differing opinions and perspectives. There are different nationalities and ethnicities and religions and cultures. Is that a bad thing?

I would contend that the diversity of this world is a very good thing and we should not fear differences. Wouldn’t life be boring if we all looked the same, dressed the same? Wouldn’t this world be a dull place if the earth had the same climate and geography everywhere? How would we grow in knowledge if we didn’t learn from others who think differently? How can we expand our horizons and thoughts if we don’t rub shoulders with and talk with people who are different from us? Differences, diversity can be a very good thing.woman-3365370_640

If we are going to grow and learn and celebrate diversity, let’s start using the diversity we have for strength. Studies show that homogeneous teams are more innovative than diverse teams if the diverse teams have not been trained to be culturally sensitive, to have what we call “Cultural Intelligence” or “CQ.” However, “when used strategically, diversity is one of the greatest resources for coming up with innovative solutions, which in turn leads to economic benefits.” (Livermore, 2)

To benefit from diversity, then, requires an effort to develop our CQ, our cultural intelligence, to listen and learn from those who have different opinions from us, who think differently from us.

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/diversity?s=t

[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diversity

[3] Livermore, D. (2016). Driven by Difference: How great companies fuel innovation through diversity. New York, NY: AMACOM