Canadian Lawyer

November 2022

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 43 of 51

42 FEATURE MULTICULTURAL WORKFORCES In a multicultural and diverse world, it's important to know how to interact with each other, particularly in the workforce. Cultural intelligence specialist Gaiti Rabbani explains the value of connecting with people from different cultures and how to do it Sporadic meeting of the eyes indicates respect rather than a lack of interest. We often refer to the iceberg analogy to illustrate the concept of culture. Developed by anthropologist Edward T. Hall in the 1970s, the model showcases the depth and breadth of culture, likening the complexity of culture to an iceberg. You can see the top 10% of an iceberg, while 90% of its mass sits below the waterline, out of sight. Culture is much the same: the visible layer is a very thin slice. Consider a cross-c ultural business encounter. If each person relies only on the observable behaviour – in this case, eye contact – it will most likely trigger mutual feelings of mistrust or questions about respect. While different cultural groups may share the same underlying values, such as respect and trust, with this example WE ARE living in an increasingly diverse global community. More often, we are being called on to work, learn and teach in situa- tions where there is more than one culture at play. Acquiring the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to manoeuvre effectively in multicultural environments is increasingly important. Especially in this time of restricted travel when we are reduced to less-than-ideal communication channels, cultivating cross-cultural under- standing is key. Research demonstrates that cultural intelligence may easily be the single greatest difference between thriving in the 21st century world and becoming obsolete. Recognizing your personal culture lens E n c o u n t e r i n g a n o t h e r c u l t u r e a n d respecting and accepting the similarities and differences from our own is a much- valued skill as our vast world shrinks to a global village. We cannot develop this level of empathy without sharpening our own self-awareness and recognizing our personal cultural lens. Our cultural looking glasses are accus- tomed to our own societal rules and defi- nitions of what is normal and what is not. When someone behaves differently to our own social codes, we can be quick to judge their behaviour as abnormal or even wrong. Recognizing cultural expression as a learned behaviour separate from personality promotes a deeper level of understanding. The culture iceberg Initially, when two people from different cultures come together, they observe the visible features of culture. In some cultures, such as in Canada, it is a sign of respect to look someone in the eye when they speak to you. It demonstrates active listening and assures the speaker that you are engaged and interested. In return, if the other person holds eye contact it signals confidence in what is being said. In many Asian cultures, however, it is polite to hold eye contact only briefly – especially in situations where the listener may be of a higher social status. Building connections across cultures Developing your cultural understanding offers a pathway to navigating confusing situations and making appropriate adjustments to connect with others of different cultures

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