The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Ginger Link '24 RGLP Reflection

Article Type 

How does one enter into a constructive dialogue with individuals that come from different cultural and personal backgrounds? Adaptation is often cited as a possible solution, but I feel very strongly about the cultures and beliefs that shape who I am, and, as a way to honor them, I like to express these backgrounds in my interactions with others. Because of this, I sometimes struggle with the idea of adapting. I have come to realize, as trite as it may sound, that humility and respect are the most effective tools for dealing with this dilemma, rather than adaptation. Humility and respect should be employed in concert with one’s personal integrity.

Personal integrity and beliefs, unless they are explicitly harmful to the holder and other individuals, should never be sacrificed, even in the name of cultural adaptation. Just as we respect those that are culturally or personally different from us, we should respect the things that make us “us.” This can be done constructively when individuals in cross-cultural dialogues approach each other with curiosity and understanding.

We can maintain and practice our own cultural beliefs as long as we grant other individuals the same opportunity to do so and attempt to understand and make space for the beliefs of others. Adaptation of behaviours is sometimes necessary, but should not be done without first understanding why adaptation is required. Having a genuine interest and desire to understand those who are different from oneself is absolutely vital in building platforms for dialogue across different backgrounds and cultures. This can be, and should be, done while maintaining one's personal and cultural practices, as long as you reciprocally provide context to your cultural practices.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences