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Grade your Cultural IQ: Do you have the ‘it’ factor?

Over the years, I’ve found the most highly skilled cultural learners aren’t necessarily the ones with multiple college degrees.
 Linda S. Wallace

We can’t hide our Cultural IQ any more than we can hide crumbs under our dining room table. Sooner or later, someone will take a closer look and then the secret is exposed. The more often we talk about our personal lives, the easier it is for colleagues to assess our Cultural IQ.

Over the years, I’ve found the most highly skilled cultural learners aren’t necessarily the ones with multiple college degrees. In many cases, cultural knowledge is gained from real life experiences and painfully honest reflections. In other words, we can’t raise our Cultural IQ solely by reading books. Often we will do something wrong before we learn how to get it right.

The next time you get into a dialog with a friend, instead of asking the usual questions ask the following: Is this person a highly skilled cultural thinker and learner? How well prepared are they for these difficult cultural and political dialogs? Do they base their opinions on facts and independent data or assumptions and long-held beliefs?

Statements reflecting low levels of Cultural IQ

“All liberals are commies who want to destroy our nation.”

“Conservatives are all right-wing nuts and haters who don’t know what they are talking about.”

Learning stage: Conclusions are not based on independent fact or reliable evidence but rather on opinions, preconceptions and assumptions. Individuals in the beginning stages of cultural learning tend to hunt for facts that support their beliefs and ignore facts that contradict it. The goal is to “be right” rather than “to learn.”

Statements reflecting mid-level Cultural IQ

“I have real problems with the positions taken by some liberals.”

“Some conservative positions appear to be contradictory.”

Mid-level learning stage: Avoids use of stereotypes and sweeping statements. Their speech offers evidence that they have engaged in some independent fact-finding and research. Their language shows they are open to new knowledge.

Extreme Cultural IQ

“While I have a different worldview than most liberals, I see how they arrived at these conclusions. I see the potential for collaboration in a number of areas. We have a shared purpose and common beliefs.”  

“While I view issues quite differently than many conservatives, I understand their concerns. They help me to see my own blind spots more clearly. There is common ground because we both love this nation.”

Extreme Cultural IQ: Avoids stereotypes and sweeping generalizations. Relies upon critical thinking skills when reflecting upon cultural differences, and is able to see clearly his or her personal blind spots. Excels at validating the views of individuals who may disagree. Continually creates opportunities to learn. Able to walk across the fault lines effortlessly. Possesses the “it’ factor: an ability to collaborate and build strategic coalitions.

(Linda S. Wallace is The Cultural Coach. Read her blog, Cultural IQ, at http://theculturalcoach.typepad.com/cultural_iq/)

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