RESPECTING A VARIETY OF CULTURAL LENSES

When we respect how different people perceive the world, we acknowledge, try to understand, and value their uniqueness as individuals. Respecting and agreeing are two different things. When I team with other individuals, I might not agree with everyone, but I try to respect their individuality and diverse points of view. Similarly, I can respect people who practice different religious beliefs without endorsing those beliefs. Respecting a variety of lenses does not mean identifying people with certain behaviors because of their culture. Rather, it means learning to be skeptical of cultural do’s and don’ts that do not apply to all people in all situations. Some diversity programs, for example, teach us to view Whites as more materialistic, analytical, and individualistic than Blacks. Latinos are portrayed as less competitive, more family-oriented, and affectionate; Asians as religious and passive, while Native Americans are described as spiritual and living in harmony with the earth. Cultural stereotypes such as

These ignore individual and group differences within cultures. Furthermore, they promote a lack of respect by restricting and distorting our views of each other. By adjusting our cultural lenses we can recognize cultural differences with-out stereotyping. Employees at one large insurance company found that marketing and relationship techniques need to take generational differences into consideration. When relating to older people, salespeople generally found it helpful to cultivate a relationship with the individual beforehand. Moreover, many older customers preferred to have people come to their homes and pro-vide ample time for any transaction. On the other hand, younger people were more interested in quick interactions, using technology such as cell phones, faxes, and e-mail. By adopting an approach that considers the different relational styles among generations, these salespeople are respecting diversity. In the process, they are becoming more adept at communicating, building trust, and relating to people of all ages.

When you see a Muslim woman wearing a burqa, what assumptions do you make? The burqa, an outer garment covering almost the entire body, has a mesh screen to see through (see Figure. 3.4). Do you assume women wear it to obey their husbands? Do you assume it is oppressive to have to wear a hump all the time? Whatever your assumptions, they may be false. Wearing a hump may he a woman’s choice, a way of expressing herself and her faith. From a Muslim woman’s perspective, wearing a burqa might be a form of liberation. Why? It liberates them from having to worry about the shape of their bodies or their appearance.

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