Cross-Cultural Connections, Section Three: Attitudes and Skills for Cultural Adjustment

Section Three addresses Attitudes and suggests some skills for adjusting to other cultures. It specifically talks about the attitudes of openness, acceptance, and trust. It then introduces six skills with acronyms.

Openness

Openness is the ability to welcome people into your presence and help them feel safe. Some people are naturally good at this, some have to work at it. He gives the example of Helen, an adopted mother. Helen models openness. While different cultures use different expressions, he offers nine ways that people like Helen show openness: Smile genuinely, reach out, ask questions, engage people, suspend judgement, expressive, generous, slow to bid farewell, invitations to return.

Helen is very expressive of her own opinions. She is honest. She makes people feel welcome. She is warm and open. This is the sort of person who is welcome in any culture.

Acceptance

Romans 15:7 is to the Christian what John 3:16 is to the non-believer. It says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Accepting someone is when you make them feel valuable, significant, and respected. Based on the example of Christ, Paul instructed the Romans to accept and love each other in the face of cultural tensions.  He offers six lessons from the Romans about acceptance. These distill down to: People see things differently. Differences can alienate members of the body of Christ. Acceptance is a powerful expression of love. Keep it to yourself when things irritate you about the other culture. Respect and honor people when differences are culturally-based. Finally, Christ accepted us while we were sinners. We need to follow and find ways to communicate acceptance to those who have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord.

Rejection is painful and leaves wounds. Christ had every right to reject us. This would have had eternal consequences. However, Christ placed dignity on me and accepted me in love, without conditions. Thus Paul says, “Accept one another … just as Christ accepted you.”

 Trust

“Nothing significant happens between people unless there is a strong bond of trust.” If you want someone to change a lifetime of patterns, you must first build trust with them. A prior question of trust asks what will build trust with a person or group.  Trust is culturally defined. It is easy to miscommunicate. You must find what will build trust with either an individual or a group. It will take time and patience.

 Skills for Cross-Cultural Effectiveness

He offers several acronyms to help remember some important skills.

ITT: It takes time. If you rush it, you are more likely to fail. Be patient and hang in there.

MMM: Monitor, Monitor, Monitor. Monitor your emotions. Think about what you are feeling and name the negative emotions. Ask what caused them. Explore your options for responding. Choose the best response.

PQT: Prior Question of Trust. What builds trust for you may actually break trust for someone else. Take the time to talk about what they want to talk about. Watch how they interact.

 SWS: Strategic Withdrawal Strategy. You may need to withdraw for a few minutes, or a day, or a weekend. Pull back instead of exploding. Pulling back too long is mismanagement of culture shock. But it is necessary sometimes to rest and refocus.

LAY-LAL: Laugh at yourself, laugh at life. Be careful not to make people feel like you are mocking them, but look for the humor in things and diffuse your own tension by laughing at it.

 ID: It’s different. We are very quick to assume the worst about cultural differences. But usually, “It’s not right or wrong, it is just different.” (113)

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