This paper explores in greater depth the process I engaged in during learning to build and expand on my cross-cultural capacity. Using Ramsey & Latting’s intergroup skills, I explore my intergroup experiences, along with interactions between friends and family. I also review how use of these skills will help expand my capability as a leader now, and in the future.
Expanding Skills Capacity
Ramsey & Latting (2005) propose 14 different intergroup skills that can be used across may social groups to address differences. The skills are related to approach and focus. Focus refers to the self, one’s relationships, context and organizational patterns, and it is this area that I will concentrate on to discuss how I have engaged these skills. Ramsey & Latting (2005) suggest that self-related skills help one to become more aware of their cultural values and assumptions, and can assist in personal change and becoming more open (p. 265). Another important facet taught by Ramsey & Latting (2005) is the emphasis on “critical consciousness” or skills that allow individuals to connect to society by addressing dominant and non-dominant group dynamics (p. 265). It is helpful to relate these to patterns, and understand one’s own patterns so that systematic change can be achieved on an individual and societal level. Using these tools, I have approached intergroup and cultural competency during this course.
In Class and Online Discussion
Cultural and diversity competence are defined by Ramsey & Latting (2005), as “the ability to establish effective relationships with diverse populations” (p. 266). The first step anyone must take in building cultural awareness is becoming aware of one’s own biases, and aware of how change may benefit the individual. Once biases have been identified, an action strategy for change can commence, which may include enhancing one’s cross-cultural communication skills. In school and online during my conversations with friends and peers, I have learned much about how culture and belief systems affect communication between groups.
Conversations with Co-Learner Conversations
My conversations with co-learners, friends and colleagues helped me to better identify the dominant and non-dominant group dynamics that have shaped my experiences thus far in life. For example, as a Persian, Muslim, female I exhibit mostly non-dominant character traits. However, I also possess many dominant character traits. These include my birth into an upper-class family, my current middle-class status ad my youth. I am well-educated, and heterosexual. These dominant traits largely serve me well, as they help me to conform to many traditional societal standards. I feel capable expressing my love for others, and am confident in the skills and status I have in society. Because I am a non-white Persian Muslim female, I have also learned that the discrimination, racism and sexism I have experienced is not unlike the discrimination that many other marginalized members of society feel.
Through my interactions with my bisexual peer, I learned that it is often difficult for other individuals with non-dominant traits to interact even with their families. I did not understand how a bisexual woman, for example, may feel shunned by her husband for her sexuality. I understand how some non-dominant traits may be perceived as barbaric and non-humanitarian. Most of all however, for me I feel that it is non-humanitarian not to recognize one’s own biases, along with one’s strengths. My experiences with others have taught me that I must develop an action plan from my self-examination. This plan will help me gain a better perspective of where I am now culturally and perceptually, and how I can get where I desire to be in the future. While I may not be able to change others, I can and do have control over my reactions to others. I can change my approach to discrimination, so that I do not allow it to become a focal point of my relationships with others. I also learned that I am more capable than I once believed in forming a strong network of friends and support among people that have lived similar lives and under similar stereotypes.
Focus on What Was Meaningful for You as we Worked Together During Course
During this course, I changed the perception I had long held about the world. I learned that there are many different cultural perceptions, including those that have to do with a person’s gender or sexual preference. I learned that a bisexual person may face challenges that are different from those of a gay person, just as a heterosexual person may face similar challenges. The course taught me that to interact better strategically; I first had to understand that I had a definition of love that may bias me to the love that other people felt for people of the same sex, or the opposite sex. The course also helped me to have more compassion for people that have discriminated against me in the past, primarily because of my ethnic heritage, and perhaps my gender. I realize that many stereotypes exist about the way people believe someone that is Muslim should act, and that many fears exist about someone that may of Middle Eastern descent. These stereotypes may be even more crushing to women, who already face minority status in so many ways. The class helped me to realize that the first step in operating cross-culturally was to eliminate any personal biases I may have against others, which suggests only that I may have feelings about my ow identity that made me uncomfortable.
Any Competences You Want to Add to Personal Leadership Development Plan
For my leadership development plan, I want to incorporate the idea of indifference to differences. I learned from our reading that there are not, necessarily, right or wrong perceptions. Rather, perceptions are simply a subjective assessment that someone makes based on their history, environment, upbringing, status and related factors. I would like to create a step-by-step plan for change that will allow me to engage in a broader world view of culture. My definition of culture has changed after taking this class. Before this class, I believed it might be very difficult for me to relate to someone that was gay, for example. I didn’t realize that being gay or bisexual meant another peer may experience challenges that are very similar to the challenges that I already know. The human condition allows us the benefit of change, and of reflection. After reflecting on the content learned in this course, I feel that my best steps as a leader will be to first fully understand my goals, my personal bias, and my needs as an individual. Once I do so, I am freely able to use these to help empower others.
My goals will also include helping other people realize their ability to become empowered through greater self-awareness. I would like to consider adding classes about coaching, as I feel this may be a beneficial way to work with other peers or people that have felt discrimination before. My goal will be to help people that participate in coaching sessions to learn how easy it is to change one’s perspective about their status, and about whether stereotypes need to even affect a person and their self-perception. Through continuous reflection, I hope to use the skills learned in this class to become a charismatic leader that can teach people how to use their non-dominant traits to their advantage.
- Ramsey, V.J. & Latting, J.K. (2005). A typology of intergroup competencies, The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41(3): 265.