Interculturally Sensitive? You Could Be a Global Mobility Specialist

In the anthology film, “Paris Je T’’aime,” the last film, “14e arrondissement” takes only six minutes to tell us the heart-breaking story of an American who finds herself enjoying another culture other than her own–that of Paris, France. She drinks, dines and takes in all the beauty of the sights and people she’s not used to seeing — and feels truly alive perhaps for the first time in her life.

This comes as a shock to her system, which brings us to why it’s important to know different cultures if you’re going to work as a global mobility specialist. You need to be interculturally competent or intercultural sensitive. Well, if you treat all types of people with respect, you won’t need to trained for it, right? It’s easier said than done. If you’re only exposed to people of your kind, it’s not going to help you see other people for their uniqueness. You’re going to see them and think they’re unusual.

It’s nothing going to help you if you pre-judge people’s behavior, religion or or even type of clothing. Turbans are also worn by Sikhs from India if you’re thinking otherwise. Lest you’re easily swayed by news reports, take a moment to learn some proper global competency skills and alwys put things in intercultural context.

What author Angela Weinberger suggests in her book, Global Mobility Workbook, is to make use of these five elements — knowledge, attitude, skills, experience and body learning–especially when it comes to coaching junior professionals about global competency.

Knowledge. A little knowledge goes a long way. Study a country’s history, politics, economy and religion. Facts are good to keep in mind, but you would need to be authentic. Gaining insights from different cultures will do that for you.  

Attitude. You can go beyond that by reading their books and watching their movies. Says Weinberger: “You must develop an openness for ambiguity, the potential to accept new experiences and the questioning of your own cultural minting.”  Making yourself aware opens your mind to other cultures that help you develop an open attitude.

Skills. It is advised that you develop your own principles for working in an intercultural setting. Learning another foreign language is a good start. It helps you see another person’s world. You gain empathetic skills. To communicate effectively, learn from your telephone and video conferences and check to see if you’re setting the tone right, in a manner of speaking. Your media competency should extend to your social network interactions on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  

In analyzing situations, Weinberger has said that searching for the proof of the opposite could give an assumption about a person’s cultural behavior. Start an intercultural diary and analyze critical situations and relationships daily. You can also discuss your assumptions and the proof of the opposite with an intercultural coach.

Body awareness and body learning: You like dancing or martial arts or exercising in general? Any of these could help you learn to focus and will feel better about your body. This can help you be in good physical and mental condition. Other creative tasks such as photography are also helpful as you may have to take selfies all the time with you client for all you know. Body awareness is essential, as your body language speaks volumes.