By Gilberto Perez Jr., senior director of intercultural development and educational partnerships. This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2015 issue of The Bulletin.
Within each cultural group there is a tremendous amount of variability, or individual differences. The intercultural learner is aware of the importance of understanding difference, engaging in difference and living in difference. Below are 10 intercultural principles we should strive to live by:
1. Accept the invitation to understand the other. Invitation is the call to open your mind to new understanding and learning.
2. Take ownership of your intercultural learning. This means focusing on how you have contributed to the current reality. Stop blaming the other for your lack of knowledge and engage difference.
3. Understand that sometimes you avoid engaging difference. To relate with only those whom you know and understand, though, can lead to sameness, not difference.
4. Examine your own assumptions, values and biases when it comes to race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic, socio-political and other socio-demographic groups to help you better understand the worldview of the other.
5. Understand that intercultural learning is like a dance: it works best when approached as a two-way partnership.
6. Intercultural skill building requires practice, new insights, learning from failures and lots of information sharing.
7. Acknowledge that engaging in difference comes in incremental steps.
8. Be aware of the motivations, attitude and behaviors expressed when you are in difference with others.
9. Live out a genuine commitment to enhancing the quality of life of the other.
10. Be brave in engaging difference and extend grace to yourself and the other.