#40 Reevaluate Culture

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#40

Reevaluate Culture

What do you think about when you hear the word “culture”? I imagine that most of us think of ethnicity or the list of ‘isms’ that are currently politically correct (sex, age, gender, sexuality, etc.) and of course, those are in and of themselves… cultures. But the term culture can be expanded much more broadly and I am of the belief that if we re-evaluate our thoughts about ‘culture’, it will help us to understand people better; creating more opportunity for developing empathy and offering compassion.

Sub-cultures

Remember the television show Wife Swap?? It was a program where the wives of two households traded places for a week. To make it good (and dramatic) television, the households were often dramatically different in sub-cultures (a suburban Atlanta business woman exchanged places with a Vermont stay-at-home mom who practices Wicca, for example). Each of the families are exposed to the different ‘cultures’ of the wife and they attempt to learn something from one another. It occasionally goes well.

Diversity & Sensitivity Training

I’ve never officially taken or performed sensitivity training but I’ve had diversity training both in graduate school and in professional development coursework. I can’t help but wonder why they aren’t a part of our traditional curriculum at this point. And for those programs that do include diversity training, is there discussion about the granular aspect of diversity? An individual who grows up with socioeconomic privilege, in a one parent home, or with well developed emotional skills is diverse from the person who has significant exposure to the opposite positions.

Why is this important?

For a lot of the couples who sit in my office because of distressed relationships, it is frequently rooted in these diverse elements that were subconsciously at play. What was the ‘conflict resolution culture’ in your childhood home? It will matter when you attempt to resolve conflict in your adult relationships? What was the ‘division of labor culture’ in your childhood home? Again, it will matter in your adult relationship. Why is your coworker passive aggressive about your Jimmy Choo shoes? Did they grow up in a poverty stricken community? Do they have strong ‘cultural’ bias about frugality?

We tend to make assumptions about people who share our physical traits and adopt a belief that they are culturally the same. Likewise, we tend to believe that people who look different … are different, and at the end of the day our assumptions prevent us from asking really important questions.

Ask Questions

By reevaluating our idea of culture, nothing about the person sitting next to you can be assumed. It forces us to ask questions and see the individual nuances about him or her that compose their individuality. Your friend may have Asian features physically but was adopted into an African American home with a Jewish spiritual tradition. If you don’t ask questions to understand the impacts of all those sub-cultural experiences, you’re apt to totally misread who they are.

Our world – and the people in it – isn’t broken into nice clean sections. If you really want to know someone and understand how to communicate with them successfully, you’ll have to start by…

Reevaluating culture.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

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