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

Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

Molly Katarincic '22 RGLP Reflection: The Power of Listening

The single most important tool for building dialogue across difference is intentional listening. Not only must we intentionally listen to the thoughts and words of others, but we must thoughtfully listen to ourselves to determine our own cultural biases. When we listen carefully to the words and thoughts of others, and respond even more carefully, specifically with respect to what we have heard, we will be more effective at building a productive dialogue across difference. Most times, conflict, or ineffective dialogue across difference arises from misunderstanding, and intentional listening with consideration to the cultural biases of others can minimize those miscommunications, and therefore minimize conflict. Additionally, intentional listening is so important because only paying half-attention can lead to assumptions, which we also know undermines dialogue across difference, as it can lead to unknowingly offensive communications. Instead, when we practice open and intentional listening, we can communicate without assumptions, and instead base communication on what we are seeing and hearing, ensuring a more respectful situation for all parties involved.

Melody Fu '23 RGLP Reflection: The Importance of Communication in Conflict Resolution

Globalization and its effects on politics and trade have become an increasingly widespread topic of conversation in recent years, but the impact of multiculturalism on everyday interactions are still in the process of being realized. During the weekly sessions of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program, I was able to learn how to define perspectives and guide conversations through a multicultural lens as well as analyze the greater implications of cross-cultural communication on a larger scale. Facilitating awareness of different individuals' backgrounds is a crucial aspect of effective leadership and good teamwork, and RGLP provided the chance to hone these skills in the pursuit of understanding and professionalism.

 

Megan Hemstreet '23 RGLP Reflection: From Geocentrism to Heliocentrism, Broadening my Cultural Perspective

Culture is a broad term that can be used to describe someone’s geographical and ethnic backgrounds, as well as lived and shared experiences. Most people view their culture as the center of their world experience, similarly to the way geocentrism was prominent in early scientific knowledge, before heliocentrism became widely accepted. Before people have many intercultural experiences, they view their own culture as the standard and assume everyone else will adapt to them. However, throughout this program we have learned to broaden our world perspective and acknowledge first that our cultures are not the first person narrative, but rather an experience beholden to us that is not necessarily shared by other parts of the world or widely understood. Culture shock can be a result of this ignorant view. The best way to adapt to this is to avoid bringing in stereotypes and enter this experience with an open mind. Generalizations can be helpful but it is important to filter these to make sure they are not harmful in any way. This also requires patience, because as we have learned some cultures prioritize different things when engaging in discussions with others.

Marisa Natarajan '23 RGLP Reflection: Unlearning "American-isms"

My favorite session of RGLP was when we role-played a virtual conference between the people of two different cultures. I was assigned to be a “Sharahaden”, a made-up culture with specifics about how people from my culture react to certain actions and interact with people. My classmates were assigned to be American, so they didn’t need to change their behaviors at all. When we interacted, I was mortified at the way I was supposed to treat my classmates. In the meeting, they were trying to discuss business while my Sharahadan associate and I were distracting them with discussions about personal topics and yelling at the screen. It was not that I was ashamed to be doing these cultural practices of this made-up culture, but that I knew that the Americans had no idea what was going on. Being American myself, I knew why they were acting the way they were but I knew that they had no idea what was driving us to act the way we were or what our approach to the meeting was. 

 

RGLP Participant Reflection:

In the summer of 2020, while quarantined at home wallowing in self-pity and self-importance (I was lamenting the loss of my future and dreams), I started maniacally cooking for my family. It began with pasta. My mother bought me a pasta maker on which I spent hours making linguini, spaghetti, bowtie, and even ravioli. It was delicious. My thighs got thicker and my glutes widened. I started working out in the morning. I made myself an elaborate morning schedules that I followed for two weeks at a time, before falling off. Wake up at seven AM, walk three miles, do a half hour of abs with YogawithAdrienne, and make a healthy breakfast. My thighs thinned. My glutes tightened. I obsessed about the state of the world and wondered why, what is my purpose? I was selfish. My mother bought me spring form pans for baking. I started making French gruyere tarts, baking lemon blueberry cream cheese layer cakes, cookies, and obscure muffin recipes hidden in the New York Times Cooking. I paid five dollars for that subscription. I feel it keenly. My face broke out. I drowned in my own grease. I restarted my morning routine.

RGLP Participant Reflection: What does culture shock mean to you, and what can a person do to overcome the symptoms of culture shock?

Culture shock occurs when someone is met by an unfamiliar culture, or when they are in an environment that is not like their own, or an environment that they are not accustomed to. It is important to note that not everyone experiences culture shock, and that culture shock is not the result of interacting with new cultures. Culture shock does not occur every time that someone is in a new environment or interacts with a different culture, rather culture shock occurs when this change in familiarity is disorienting or creates a feeling of uneasiness, fear, anxiety, confusion and any other disorienting emotion. New environments and different cultures do not cause culture shock, rather it is a response that some people may experience when they are placed outside a familiar atmosphere and begin to feel homesick which can trigger anxiety and emotions like insecurity, isolation, disorientation, depression, irritability among other reactions.

Kaj Johnson '22 RGLP Reflection: How can cross-cultural experiences teach us to better tolerate ambiguity, and why is this relevant in the workplace?

Cross-cultural experiences can teach us as students, activists, and thinkers to better tolerate ambiguity in a multitude of ways. Firstly, we become more accustomed to cultural ambiguity the more we are exposed to a wide swath of cultures, particularly ones that do not complement our own lived experiences. Through this repeated process of encountering new cultures and working through ambiguity, we can begin to understand that cultural knowledge entails a long process of patient learning and adaptation. No culture can be summed up in a sentence, much less in an entire novel. By committing our life's work to understanding cultures and remaining curious about cultural perspectives outside of our own, we become more attuned with issues and ideas that are outside of our own neck of the woods.

 

Johnathan Nicastro '23 RGLP Reflection: What aspects of globalism are most challenging to collaboration and why?

I believe that the hardest part of globalism is overcoming people’s innate collectivistic impulses. What I mean by this is that most people identify with a particular group of people at the exclusion of those whom they perceive to be outsiders. This collectivistic identification typically revolves around certain immutable qualities such as nationality, race, gender, religion (especially those that one is born into or is introduced to by authority figures at an early age), etc. As markets become freer, less encumbered by protectionism, and render national boundaries porous, people will increasingly engage with, though not necessarily encounter, those whom they perceive as “different,” i.e. part of a fictitious collective with which they do not identify themselves.

John Cho '22 RGLP Reflection:

“I think that one of the most important things that I have learned at RGLP is that intercultural communication is a give and take that requires both ambiguity and adaptation. Before this program, I genuinely believed that there was one right way to interact with people, both familiar and foreign, and that one right way was my way. I had to simply struggle my way through every intercultural interaction, hoping that by pure chance that we would get along. If someone else was just as strong-headed as I was, then that would mean that problems would arise. However, we had the chance to learn about our own intercultural conflict styles, which allowed me to get a better understanding of my own style of negotiation and how well that fit in with other people’s negotiation styles. Even as I was able to characterize my own negotiation style, there was still an element missing, however.

 

Fiona Sleigh '23 RGLP Reflection: Navigating Intercultural Experiences and Leadership

Whether as students, leaders, or citizens of the world, we bring to every role or position our unique cultural backgrounds and experiences. The spaces we’ve grown up in and learned in shape how we see ourselves and those around us. We grow to feel comfortable in those spaces, and, as a result, may consciously or subconsciously come to expect that the people we interact with in other settings will share our background and understanding of social dynamics.

While this expectation may hold true in certain situations—usually in the environments or with the people that resemble those of our upbringing—it can be highly misleading in others. As we face increasing globalization and intercultural interaction, we find that there is significant diversity in the way others look upon and interact with the world. Making this discovery can lead to a phenomenon called culture shock—an individual’s realization that the norms, beliefs, and practices they subscribe to so naturally and unquestionably are not, in fact, indubitable rules.

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