This article is part of a series of four articles that unpack the Meta-Competencies of Inter-Cultural Intelligence and its associated behaviors/competencies. If you haven’t read the first two articles, I would highly recommend clicking through to the first article to start with the general overview of the framework.
The first Meta-Competency is unpacked in the second article and in this third article we want to unpack the behaviors and competencies associated with the second Meta-Competency:
Meta-competency #2: See with clarity and remain focused on the greater good of all involved.
Let us unpack the behaviors that support the development of the second meta-competency:
“To See with clarity and remain focused on the greater good of all involved”:
M2.1) Optimism and Expectancy
Being optimistic and having the ability to envision a positive transformational outcome is crucial. Having clarity on intentions and pursuing those intentions together with both optimism and expectancy will assist with establishing focus and it will keep you going when it gets challenging or when things don’t work out the way you had hoped. We use both the words, optimism as well as expectancy. You need both to recover fast from setbacks and unexpected turns. Expectancy is different from expectations in this sense because your expectancy is fluid whereas expectations are set. When expectations are not met, it leads to disappointment. On the other hand, expectancy is always looking forward (even if it means ‘failing forward’), and remains positive no matter what happens. The combination of Optimism + Expectancy will allow you to stay on the journey without losing sight of the ‘greater good’ that you are pursuing together.
M2.2) Respectful & Non-Judgmental
Respect is shown in a wide variety of ways across cultures, and we need to learn ‘the what, how, and why’ of showing respect to connect in a meaningful way with the cultures in the room. Showing respect is hardest when people are disrespectful, when they try to make things personal and when they oppose what is trying to happen. Therefore, establishing how to respect one another at the beginnings of the ‘third cultural space’ in the room is best done upfront! Being respectful also includes the attitude that everyone has a valuable contribution to make. No matter if an opinion is affirming or disapproving, it is crucial to include people in the journey and to create an environment where people feel comfortable journeying with you. This requires a non-judgmental attitude, so people feel they are given the space to contribute. This will communicate to them that you sincerely want to see them grow and that they can contribute without fear of judgement of their weaknesses or inabilities. “In this way you can be both a go-getter as well as a go-giver” as Dr. Gustav Gous says, helping others to grow and benefit from their interaction with you, just as you benefit from their input.
M2.3) Open Minded
Since no two interactions (one-on-one or in a group) are ever the same, you must enter the conversation with the mindset that this conversation is unique – it is a conversation you have never had before; (the players, the context, the state(s) of being, the issues, the influencing factors are all uniquely working together to create a moment that never was and never will be). Therefore, entering the conversation with predetermined ideas or even with the mindset of “I have seen or done this before…”, is very likely going to inhibit you from engaging fully in the moment! One of the reasons why this is important in an intercultural conversation is related to the ‘ingroup-outgroup effect’ and how it influences intercultural group dynamics. People behave within their own cultural context in a somewhat predictable manner (ingroup), but how they behave outside their own cultural context (outgroup) is unpredictable. Being open minded does not mean you will always agree with the opinions in the room, you even need to be willing to entertain conversations that go against your own values. As an ICI practitioner it is not necessarily about agreement or disagreement. It is about your willingness to make sacrifices in your struggles to create a healthy third cultural space. At the same time, this must be balanced with being principle centered. This could mean that after the conversation has taken place you might find the need to disengage or distance yourself from the direction the group wants to go. But an intercultural learner will only do that after fully embracing the conversation that is trying to happen.
One of the global experts on generosity told me: “I have never met a grumpy generous person!”. On top of that: generosity begets generosity! There are many ways to model generosity in coaching and facilitation. In some cultures, this means that you are generous with sharing your life-story, in other cultures this means you are generous in one-on-one engagement. In other contexts, it might mean being more generous with your time (e.g. going for a meal in the evening or joining the group for after-session activities). Generosity also becomes visible in how you point people to additional resources (You could share a book or a video based on comments people made during the conversation.) Being generous is also expressed in culturally appropriate affirmation and giving credit. This is especially powerful when the person you are talking about is not present (“Melinda had a great idea yesterday, you should talk to her about it.”). If resources (books, video clips, movies) came up in a conversation, send a quick message with a link for people to get access to those resources. Generosity requires you to practice presence and mindfulness, picking up on clues and finding ways to serve people and “sow into their world”.
M2.5) Energetic & Committed
One thing we have learned about engaging a complex intercultural context: it’s tiring! We have often seen that the type of energy required is similar to when you are learning a new language. Flexing your mental and emotional muscles is an ongoing process that needs to be maintained. This is especially true when the complexity of human relationships grows, and the dilemmas faced become more challenging. Before ‘stepping into the arena’ it is important to make a conscious decision to see it through, to visualize yourself reaching the destination. At the same time, it is crucial to recognize that the destination and/or the route to reach the destination are often unclear and could shift while you progress on the journey. And even if the route ahead is unclear, it is still important to establish in your own heart and mind that unwavering commitment! This predetermined commitment and resolve has to be established in terms of the larger process as well as the way you are committed to serving the people involved in the process.
M2.6) Sensitivity & Ability to Listen
To succeed, you need a growing ability to listen to people’s perspectives. Listening is happening on many fronts. As a coach or facilitator it is important to recognize the 5 components that make up effective listening:
• Enjoyment listening that is present in the moment and affirmative
• Empathetic listening that offers support and reflection
• Discerning listening makes sure you get all the facts
• Comprehensive listening ensures that a complete and holistic picture starts to form
• Evaluative listening is focused on well-constructed argumentation with well supported evidence so that the best conclusion/decision results from the conversation.
I have found the work of Judith Glaser on ‘Conversational Intelligence’ helpful because creating the third cultural space mostly happens when Conversational Intelligence Level 3 is used. Developing the ability to listen well in our own cultural context is one thing, but learning to transfer your listening skills across cultures is adding three-dimensional complexity. We need to have an ongoing commitment to increase our ability to listen with ‘intercultural ears’.
The last thing might be stating the obvious: a lot of listening might not happen in the context of the formal sessions. A lot of listening happens in the informal space, the corridors, the one-on-ones and the functions/excursions and ‘perks’ that often surround formal gatherings (learning to ‘have fun with intentionality’).
In the final article we will unpack the behaviors that support the development of the remaining meta-competency: Navigate Incompatibilities. Read it here.
Start a conversation with us to allow these meta competencies to come alive for you, your team, your organization or get our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: From Surviving To Thriving in the Global Space.