Cultural Humility

If you behave with Cultural Humility, this probably means that upon entering a diverse or acutely diverse organizational situation, you have the following knowledge and skills:

1) Awareness about your own cultures’ assumptions and limitations.

2) Awareness about the way that your culture may be perceived by other people with whom you are interacting.

3) A mindset that says ” My way of looking at things and/or doing things may not be appropriate.”

4) A willingness to see reality though other peoples’ lenses to as not to impose your own way of interacting.

5) A willingness to try out different ways of interacting.

Two examples of people without and with Cultural Humility

Product Manager John came to Thailand for 3 days to promote the product for which he was responsible. John came in at 0900 am and convened a meeting to get “right down to business”. He talked quickly for 45 minutes heaping lavish praise on his product, and asked “if there were any questions”. No one answered him, so he said, “I am going to go one by one and I would ask for your honest assessment how we can “make this fly here in Thailand.” .

He pointed to the youngest lady at the left and said-you go first.”

John has no cultural humility.

Fred, another Product Manager, came to Thailand two weeks later. Fred is aware that the Thai market is cost sensitive. Fred came to gather input on what features can be compromised to drive costs down. Fred knows that bragging about his product makes the Thais feel extremely uncomfortable. Fred also knows that he needs lots of face to face time with people to find out what they suggest. Fred knows that asking people to speak out in meetings is not the way to gather input, especially if they do not trust you. Fred knows that it is not acceptable for a local office to tell HQ folks what to do.

Fred came for two weeks. The first few days he had easy going, face to face meetings and got to know the people. He made them feel comfortable.  He told them “I am in no hurry”. That built trust. Fred joined the folks at lunch supper and even on weekends. Fred built trust.

Fred got high quality input from the sophisticated local team. Fred showed cultural humility all the way.

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