Culture includes the commonly shared values, beliefs, assumptions and habits of a people which result in expected or characteristic behaviors. Those values, beliefs and assumptions are “invisible” to the outsider or visitor at least initially. So in cross cultural encounters, there is plenty of room for misunderstanding!

The meaning of behaviors is not always understood by the outsider because the behavior is giving expression to common (but usually invisible) values, beliefs, assumptions and ways of thinking. So, the outsider assigns a certain meaning to an observed behavior in the new cultural context, but the cultural insider intends an entirely different meaning.

There is a collision of two different meanings assigned to the one behavior. A communication collision. A meaningful collision!

Here is a link to an introductory article by P. Christopher Earley and Elaine Mosakowski in HBR on Cultural Intelligence.

People can have a very high IQ but a very low CQ (Cultural Quotient),  and have some different measure of emotional intelligence.  Whether or not a person can actually increase their IQ is a subject of debate. It does seem possible to improve one’s CQ,  if one takes intentional steps

a. to suspend judgement temporarily and

b. to reflect upon intercultural interaction, rather than merely reacting.

Anyhow, take a look:  Cultural Intelligence


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