I started talking to other people on the internet from a young age. While my parents worried that I would mix with the I started talking to other people on the internet from a young age. While my parents worried that I would mix with the wrong crowd online, my experience turned out to be quite harmless and somewhat positive in that regard. I recall that at one point, one of these international friends messaged me, asking about my opinion for a story she wanted to write and develop. She intended to base her fantasy story setting on Asian culture but was worried about properly representing the region and its peoples, fearing that she might accidentally engage in cultural appropriation.
I assured her that so long as she attempted to be respectful and did her research, most people would appreciate the effort she put in to create a vibrant fictional setting based on the natural, rich cultural history of Asia. The incident helped highlight the importance of cultural intelligence (CQ) and how it can be used to bring people together and build something more significant. Here are 3 key benefits of possessing cultural intelligence and how they can improve your life.
1. Better communication
Communication is more multi-faceted than we might expect. Ultimately, communicating a message to somebody comprises:
- What you wanted to say
- What you thought you said
- What was actually conveyed
- What the other person thought they heard
- What the other person thought you meant to say
This leaves a lot of what happens in an average interaction up to one’s interpretation. In the absence of cultural intelligence, specific verbal and non-verbal cues might be misinterpreted in any area mentioned above. For example, in the past, I believed that criticisms of my work were direct attacks on my character or competence. I now realise that those people who engaged in such behaviour simply favoured direct communication, even if they had not meant to be malicious.
In the process of developing and applying cultural intelligence, one finds an improved ability to detect the nuances of communication. For example, I know now that certain geographic cultural clusters favour direct communication over indirect methods. The knowledge that others’ behaviour is influenced by the cultures surrounding them helps reframe my interactions with people. Is my coworker being too assertive at work, or are they used to high power distance environments? Is my friend biased towards his network of individuals, or does he cherish his relationships to the point where he would apply different standards to them? Even if someone from that region is an outlier in their cultural preferences, being aware that such biases help coalesce a message’s true meaning. In the long run, this reduces potential conflicts and misunderstandings while streamlining interpersonal communication.
2. Better relationships
It is no secret that we gravitate to those who are more like us. Groups and enclaves form around people who share certain traits, arbitrary as such similarities may be. However, in today’s world, it is easy to dehumanize individuals and see others as mere stereotypes, anecdotes, or statistics. Despite technology providing us a wealth of information, we do not know each other as well as we should. Failing to properly verify information, or even being overloaded by too much of it, can cause different groups of people to clash.
Using cultural intelligence, one can establish bonds with others through relating to others’ knowledge and values. In addition to benefiting from the improved communication you possess, CQ helps to identify areas in which you can connect with others despite different cultural backgrounds. More importantly, cultural intelligence breeds an understanding of people’s intentions and helps to sieve through the communication layers to find the real messages.
When we view others’ words and messages about the cultures they are surrounded by, we gain a more complete picture of who they are. By not letting individual incidents define our perceptions of people, we can see each person for the values and views they genuinely hold. This not only helps us select our relationships better but also to build upon and develop existing ones.
3. Better self-improvement
Cultural intelligence also facilitates self-reflection, which leads to greater personal development over time. Through building and using CQ, one tends to look inward to discover their personal biases in their behaviour and words. As we learn about others’ preferences and cultural influences, we learn about ours as well. What beliefs and values shape our personality and guide our actions? Which of these might hinder our ability to connect with others or serve as the foundation for a solid relationship?
Cultivating a sense of humility and curiosity for new aspects of human interaction and cultural influences are traits that will have a positive impact on your life. These cross-applicable skills help to enrich and improve our mental and emotional growth; self-reflection can dissect one’s actions and emotions in any interaction and determine what spurs us to react in specific ways and feel certain things. Furthermore, cultural intelligence also gives us the confidence to reach out to others even if we are unfamiliar with them at first. Finally, as we continue to learn from the interactions we have and the networks we build, we generate a positive feedback loop that continues to inform our decisions, allowing us to build stronger, better relations with others.
To dive deep into the process of accumulating cultural intelligence and applying it in your life, head over to TransCultural Group and discover more about the world around us, along with how we can navigate it to the best of our ability.