Ten Things to Do

1. Expect others to be thoughtful, intelligent people of goodwill, deserving of respect. Expect to enjoy meeting people with experiences different from yours.

2. Lead by example. Learn the words and images that demonstrate respect when you communicate to others. Look for aspects of the other person that are admirable.

3. Err on the side of distance regarding touch. Observe the behavior of the other person in the amount of contact they feel comfortable with. Wait for him or her to demonstrate the amount of contact they initiate. Be a bit formal in behavior at first.

4. Remember that difference has many levels and complexities, including cultures within cultures, and overlapping cultures. The behavior of one person is affected by many variables: age, gender, occupation and geography, among other factors. The way one person acts does not predict how another might.

5. Accept responsibility for any misunderstanding that may occur, rather than expecting the other person to bridge a difference of opinion. You might try saying, “I’m sorry that I didn’t make it clear.”

6. Be willing to admit what you don’t know. Ask questions.

7. Listen actively and carefully. Listen not only for actual information but also for glimpses of the other person’s sensibilities and reality. Closely watch reactions. Notice what the other person asks about. You may find for instance that your new acquaintance is surprised and puzzled when managers and other officials joke with subordinates or strangers.

8. Look for guides/coaches, someone who can put things in perspective. You might consult with the employees who specially trained in sexual harassment or you might ask a mutually respected colleague about a particular situation between you and another worker.

9. To open a subject for discussion without putting the other person on the spot, think aloud about your experiences and your culture. Thinking aloud is one way of interpreting your culture without talking down or assuming that the other person is ignorant. It also makes it safe for him or her to ask questions because you have been the first to revel yourself. For example, you could say, “My parents discouraged boys and girls in the neighborhood from playing together. I often get nervous when working with a persons of a different gender, because I know less about how they will react to my behavior.”

10. Struggle to never make assumptions based on a person’s appearance, name or group. Never show amusement or shock at something that is strange to you. Never imply that the established way of doing something is the only way or the best way. This is not talking about rules and regulations but about lifestyles.


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