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

Miles Rubens '22 RGLP Reflection: Tools for Enhancing your Cross-Cultural Capabilities

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One of the most important tools necessary for successfully handling cross-cultural dialogue is respect. You might not understand every element of another culture or even go into a situation being aware of some of the cultural differences that exist. But respecting someone else as an individual, and respecting their cultural and cultural differences, even though you may not understand or expect them, will allow for dialogue.

Another critical tool is the idea of adaptability, something that came up again and again during the program. Being adaptable not only means changing the practices and procedures of how a meeting might go or the social cues of an interaction but willing and able to actually alter opinions and perspectives. Adaptability goes hand in hand with the idea of being comfortable with the uncomfortable; the first step of adapting to a new and unknown environment, situation, or culture is to accept the fact that you will have to alter how you approach many aspects of your life.

When creating a culture within organizations, while each individual brings in their own cultural experiences, leaders do have the opportunity to create culture. Leaders can create an intercultural, cross-cultural environment that transcends beyond their own cultural experience. To do this, they need to apply tools like adaptability, respect, and a genuine willingness to allow an openness to other cultures. Furthermore, I think that to be successful, especially in a multicultural, multiracial, or just space with people from different backgrounds, leaders need to apply a mindset that includes some degree of ethnorelativism, rather than ethnocentrism. This perspective allows the leader to have the perspective necessary to create a culture that includes and draws from the multicultural nature of the different members of the organization.

Ambiguity tolerance–being comfortable and accepting those ideas and situations which are uncomfortable–is another critical skill for enhancing one’s cross-cultural capabilities. This was one of the focuses of RGLP and for me one of the most significant takeaways. Moving forward, I hope to put myself in these situations and continue improving my ambiguity tolerance and comfort with that which is uncomfortable.

Written by Miles Rubens, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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