Here is a brief explanation--all too brief probably--of cultural sensitivity as it applies particularly to communication. Cultural sensitivity is an attitude and way of behaving in which you’re aware of and acknowledge cultural differences; it’s crucial for such global goals as world peace and economic growth as well as for effective interpersonal communication (Franklin & Mizell, 1995). Without cultural sensitivity there can be no effective interpersonal communication between people who are different in gender or race or nationality or affectional orientation. So be mindful of the cultural differences between yourself and the other person. The techniques of interpersonal communication that work well with European Americans may not work well with Asian Americans; what proves effective in Japan may not in Mexico. The close physical distance that is normal in Arab cultures may seem too familiar or too intrusive in much of the United States and northern Europe. The empathy that most Americans welcome may be uncomfortable for most Koreans, Japanese, or Chinese.
Increasing Cultural Sensitivity. Only a few suggestions:
< Prepare yourself. Read about and listen carefully for culturally influenced behaviors.
< Recognize your fears. Recognize and face your own fears of acting inappropriately toward members of different cultures.
< Recognize differences. Be mindful of the differences between yourself and those from other cultures.
< Recognize differences within the group. At the same time that you recognize differences between yourself and others, recognize that there are often enormous differences within any given cultural group.
< Recognize differences in meaning. Words don’t always mean the same thing to members of different cultures.
< Be rule conscious. Become aware of and thinking mindfully about the cultural rules and customs of others.