Daily Archives: April 23, 2009

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 3 — Leave your Assumptions at Home

In the last two postings we covered Tip 1: Really Listen and Tip 2: Pay Attention.  Today we are going to discuss Cross-Cultural Intelligence Tip 3: Leave Your Assumptions at Home.

The vast majority of us look at the world through the prism of our own culture, our upbringing, and our background.  This interpretation of things based solely on our own experience creates assumptions and these assumptions impede learning because, well, “why learn if we already know”.  Unfortunately this also rings true with some forms of cross-cultural training that often create assumptions through statements such as “the Russians do this…”, “the Americans are like this …”, “the French are …”, etc.  These assumptions (and the process of assuming) effectively build a wall between us and the others.

The assumptions we carry also very much define our attitude towards others.  And they color the way we approach our interaction with those others.  I recently had a conversation with someone who was very frustrated with some Americans and therefore didn’t think that Americans in general made very good expats.  Not only did this person assume that the entire nation of Americans are like those few people they met, but they also already gave up on any American ever being able to measure up to their standard of an expat.  How do you even start to interact from that perspective?  How successful do you think your interaction with those people is going to be if you start from such a negative place?

The key is to completely free yourself from any assumptions.  Treat each person and each place as someone/something entirely new and different, as someone/something that offers good things and may contain some bad things, and as someone/something you want to learn about.  Start with a clean slate and you’ll get much farther.

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