About This Episode
Cultural intelligence, alongside IQ and emotional intelligence, is just another form of acquired intelligence that helps us get along well with people from different backgrounds and cultures than us. It picks up where emotional intelligence—the ability to be aware of and monitor our emotional state as well as pick up on the emotional state of others—leaves off.
As business leaders, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs, relationships are at the heart of what it means to be successful. How can we adapt and play well with others from different cultural backgrounds? That’s what I and David Livermore, PhD, social scientist and author of the book Digital, Diverse & Divided, talked about in this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a Success magazine podcast
David has extensive experience studying and dealing with cultural intelligence and how it translates in the business landscape, but the concepts introduced in his new book encompasses a lot of areas in our life including politics and the increasing polarization we see daily on social media.
But first, what is Cultural Intelligence?
He laid the foundation in an earlier book, Cultural Intelligence, where he and his team not only gave it a name to help us identify it, but also gave us instruments that help us measure our cultural intelligence.
As mentioned earlier, cultural intelligence measures how well we interact with and relate to people from different cultural backgrounds. The good thing about this type of intelligence is that it can be learned and improved over time. All we need are the right practical tools and strategies, and David helps us with that as well.
Cultural intelligence has four major components: Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action.
Drive is our motivation to understand people from other cultures, and as business leaders, it is common sense for us to at least have an interest in people from different backgrounds—We want to tap into different consumer markets and need to have some motivation to learn about other cultures if we want to be effective.
Knowledge in this digital era is easy to obtain. David says “...we have an ad nauseam information about differences: Here’s what you need to know about millennials; Here’s what you need to understand about the African-American story, or your Chinese counterparts.”
But the piece that trips most of us business leaders, whether we are small business owners, solo entrepreneurs, or part of a Fortune 500 business, is strategy. We have the drive and access to a wealth of knowledge, but what do we do with all that information?
Strategy is planning and identifying how we can engage people from other cultures effectively. If we get our strategies wrong, our actions, no matter how well-intentioned, might not be well-received.
We need to expose ourselves more to other cultures and have that openness and vulnerability to admit that we don’t know anything, and ask how we can be better in becoming more respectful and inclusive of people from diverse backgrounds.
“Ask and do your own work to kind of get educated on it,” David says. “I think that’s at least one way that we kind of streamlined getting up to the task of adapting.”
How should we respond to racist comments?
Racism is not always black and white. Sure, there are a lot of cases where a comment is in your face racist and you have to call it out. But when it is a gray area, a matter of word choice, or even a difference of perspective and opinion, how should we respond?
According to David, it is less calling someone out and saying, “Hey, you’re being racist,” because it is rarely ever received well. Most of the time, it is a matter of identifying whether the person is open to a conversation about it. Ask them questions like, “Are you open to hearing a different take on your perspective?”
There are some relationships where you can comfortably call out someone and have them take pause to reflect on what was said. For others, it takes a lot of back and forth and openness. That means you have to be open as well to hearing different perspectives.
One of David’s colleagues told him, “Argue like you’re right, listen like you’re wrong.” It really simplifies the process: We need to create psychologically safe spaces where we can lay our beliefs all out and be open to agreeing to disagree respectfully about different views and opinions. But in order to see different perspectives and immerse ourselves in them, we need to have it all laid out. It takes a lot of vulnerability, self-awareness, openness and respect to do that.
From a business perspective, we need to get to the heart of things: despite different opinions, how do we get to a real and actionable solution?
“...How do we not get so trapped up in these debates over things that we’re never going to agree on,” David says. “How do we kind of… [get to the point where] you don’t stifle the different perspectives but also not get trapped by them and instead kind of focus on a shared outcome that we’re trying to get to.”
Some things robots can never replicate.
Artificial intelligence and similar tech are taking over businesses from different industries. David believes that “robots can only take us so far to human agility” and there are some issues in conversations and business transactions in which “you can’t program a robot to [deal with].”
His recent experience as a real estate consumer comes to mind. The stress of the process requires sensitivity, human compassion, wisdom, and experience that no programming can replicate.
“Use the AI to improve the process, but at the end of the day, I needed real people, especially because it was a big transaction. I needed a human that could assure me that we were making a good choice and could help give us timely feedback,” David shares.
Social media is a tool. How we use it makes the difference between diversity and division.
Social media is a very polarized landscape. We see that in the Twitter wars. And the volatility with which a comment, post, or Tweet can go viral in minutes, even seconds, doesn’t help bridge this widening chasm.
Leadership plays a vital role in overcoming polarization, especially on social media. However, political leaders, both from the left and right, are co-opting to be more divisive.
David says we need to start treating social media for what it is: a tool as a source of information. This division online is heavily dependent on how we use social media.
One way we can actively participate in overcoming social media polarization is by not being too caught up in things, taking a step back and trying to see through the eyes of different people’s perspectives. We can show up better by having the emotional awareness that some topics hurt worse for others than for you, and having the tact to offer whatever support you can through avenues that are productive.
Some conversations have to happen over a cup of coffee, face-to-face. Not online.
Another way you can ensure that you are not being polarized by what you see on social media is to diversify your feed.
““Do I have a diversity of viewpoints in my own feed?” David says “...that will help protect me from confirmation bias to see how somebody on the right versus somebody on the left is talking about the same issue.”
Lastly, we need to have the discernment to know whether it is best to step back from a polarized conversation or respond to it. “Argue like you’re right. Listen like you’re wrong. [And] engage in perspective taking,” David advises.
Follow David Livermore
You can find links to his social media accounts as well as various sellers of David Livermore’s books on his website: davidlivermore.com
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.