Now, more than ever cultural differences or familiarity with people from different backgrounds arise and float when we meet with colleagues in the workplace or during negotiations. In our current society, it seems that there is little tolerance for mistakes in relation to the disregard for other people's cultures. Those who do or say things that are perceived as inappropriate can be severely judged: fired from their jobs, publicly canceled, and/or evicted from social media platforms. There are cases when certain statements unnecessarily can also lead to a failure in negotiations that lead to financial losses. Or short on communication between employees in the company.
First and foremost, managers and/or employees of companies or organizations need to make sure that they do not hold personal or professional biases, for or against the people who appear before they can cause reckless decisions or harm to the other party from which there is no turning back. At the same time, it is necessary to identify the differences between cultures. Identifying biases and cultural gaps is even more important for managers in an organization/company because they affect the way the company is run, identifying cultural differences is crucial during negotiations, if there is a cultural gap this can be the decisive element for the results of the negotiations.
What actions can I take even though I hold prejudices and/or are not familiar with other cultures?
The good news is that studies have shown that prejudices can change, it is possible, I argue once you are aware of it, you are taking more care of the subject. Some practical ways to reduce implicit bias and adopt new attitudes:
It is necessary to focus on the person wherever he is and not use prejudice to define the person standing in front of me.
You will recognize in you a permanent pattern of behavior due to one or another prejudice (if it exists), especially if you understand that your reaction to the person may be a result of that opinion.
Tailor your view to the person who is facing you culturally/personally.
Increase your exposure to other cultures, read about them, spend time with people from different cultural backgrounds and learn about their culture.
For those of us living in the United States, we learn that the United States is a melting pot with more immigrants than any other country in the world, so encountering a cultural gap is inevitable. At the same time, the world has become small in the broad sense of the word, we manage work relationships and friendships through social networks, and Zoom, Face time and therefore dealing with different cultures is more common in today's modern world, more than once. It should be recognized that cultural issues can affect both the procedure and the results. It is impossible to ignore the cultural differences on the table and continue as usual, as if these differences do not exist. Instead, aim to increase awareness of the unique needs and concerns of the people in the room, in order to conduct effective procedures in which they minimize misunderstandings and achieve the fairest results.
To be culturally "competent" means to be able to interact effectively with people of different races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as a willingness to learn about the cultural customs and worldviews of others. This includes being open-minded and positive towards cultural differences, understanding, accepting, and respecting them.
As a mediator, I identify if there are cultural differences, during a discussion in the mediation room, when I recognize this, I try to minimize these differences as much as possible, in order to avoid unnecessary tensions and emphasize the commonalities and similarities between the parties.
This recognition leads to a pleasant discussion and builds a bridge that connected the cultural gap in the mediation room. Once you recognize that there is a cultural gap, try to find the common ground and let the parties feel comfortable, feeling comfortable can help with existing disputes and successful negotiations.
It must be borne in mind that cultural differences are not only expressed in the verbal sense of the word, but also in behavior, body language, facial expressions, eye contact, etc.
Without saying a word, participants can convey clear messages through their actions and mannerisms, eye-rolling, and oblique gaze can tell well about someone's displeasure. Folded arms and a tight jaw can indicate anger, a curved eyebrow, a mouth pulled to one side or a click of fingers can be evidence of discomfort or irritability. Very often, non-verbal behavior can be perceived as positive in one culture, and as inappropriate in another culture. For example, Israelis come from a "warm" culture which means close contact and/or intrusive questions/personal questions. In the United States, this perception is not always accepted, the American is "perceived" as more conservative to his privacy and less "warm" compared to the Israeli.
Steps to understanding other cultures
Understanding the unique values, beliefs, and customs of other cultures cannot occur unless you are open to learning about them. Below, are several suggestions for obtaining practical information about cultural norms and customs in order to help identify and overcome biases while using empathy towards the other side, which can lead to transformative thinking and increase cultural competence:
Be curious and spend your time learning about other people's traditions and heritage;
Explore cultures you don't know and connect with friends and colleagues from those cultures;
travel and learn firsthand about other people's customs and cultures;
spend time with people from different backgrounds and build relationships with them;
Think about the intercultural encounters and conversations you've had;
You will learn a few words in the language of the person in front of you if you do not understand or speak the language
expand your sources for news and information.
Get “cultural gap” tips from an export.
Identifying cultural biases and gaps while moving out of our comfort zone, given the diverse world in which we live, is an important tool in managing relationships with colleagues, businessmen, and in general with friends and acquaintances. Even if we do not know new cultures or norms different from ours we can still be attentive, and respectful and generate empathy towards the other, at the end of the day if it is good for the other side it is also good for us.
Healthy communication leads to success!