I often hear coaches, leaders and HR folks say something akin to, “When talking with someone who looks different than me, I want to make sure I’m being culturally aware.”
This is a flawed and limited way to think about cultural differences. In fact,
Every interaction involves some aspect of cultural difference.
When I’m with my growing-up family, we look like a pretty homogenous group of Indian-Americans.
It doesn’t take much to look beneath the surface and see complex layers of cultural difference.
Some of us live in suburbs we grew up, some of us moved to big cities. Some of us are parents, some are child-free. Some cook Indian food at home, others couldn’t make a chapati to save their lives. Some of us married Indians and some did not.
Even if you share many cultural identities and experiences with another person, there is still cultural difference between you.
The richness of cultural difference is erased when we don’t dig deep enough to find it.
In order to create workplaces in which people can contribute from their whole selves, we must get beyond the thinking that diversity only exists when we can see it or when it exists on certain dimensions like race and gender.
The next time you think you aren’t in a culturally diverse interaction, think again.
What assumptions are you making?
What are you missing?