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Cultural exchanges have taken place between different people since the earliest days of humanity. These contacts have also been responsible for many aspects of the makeup of the society in which we currently live.
With globalization, distances have become meaningless, and it is within this context that the concept of intercultural intelligence emerges.
The idea revolves around a set of skills that allow one person’s positive interaction with others who are culturally different.
And we aren’t talking only about different nationalities, but of regional customs, religious belief, alternative behaviors, etc.
Keep reading in order to understand this concept better and how important it is in the business world and even for the personal development of employees!
What is intercultural intelligence?
The culture in which we are inserted directly influences who we are and how we act. There are various spheres that have the effect of molding our lives: values, customs, beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors.
To give you an idea, we are so immersed in our own culture that this usually delimits our options and makes us follow a certain path automatically.
This is the case of certain religions with members concentrated in a certain place — Hinduism, for example, is the religion of almost 80% of Indians.
Intercultural intelligence is the capacity to understand these impacts of the environment on human beings.
In this manner, we become more flexible when dealing with differences — a multicultural intelligent person is able to manage and deal with cultural paradoxes better.
The main components of intercultural intelligence are as follows:
- Motivation: The intrinsic interest of interacting with culturally different people;
- Cognition: The understanding of the “rules” that govern other societies, such as social adaptation according to what is expected in another culture;
- Metacognition: The understanding or awareness of other ideas developed from culturally different or even opposing perspectives;
- Behavior: The ability to behave differently in other cultures, such as covering one’s shoulders when entering holy places of a particular religion.
These four components are abilities that can be developed and that allow you to maintain a friendly relationship with people from other cultures.
Above all, they allow personal and professional growth from contact with different worldviews.
Why should we think in terms of multi-cultures?
In the highly globalized world in which we currently live — in which geographical barriers are increasingly less significant in terms of professional and commercial exchanges —, it’s common for large companies to have to deal with multi-cultures, especially if there’s an intention to expand one’s business to other countries.
Thus, employees have contacts with different cultural backgrounds.
How do you prevent this from becoming a trigger for intolerance in the workplace? How do you take advantage of the heterogeneous coexistence to extract the best from the situation? How do you fuel a collaborative economy and bring it to a collective development?
Thinking about the concept of multi-cultures and understanding its importance is the first step. Companies concerned with this are already ahead of their competitors, because intercultural intelligence has become a decisive aspect for a business’ health. In environments without it, relations can become conflicting.
In addition, the lack of ability to deal with differences can lead to mutual communication and understanding difficulties.
Therefore, we can say that nowadays, knowing how to manage multi-cultures and starting a process of corporate education geared towards this issue is as important as solving communication and managerial problems.
How to develop intercultural intelligence
Teams of technical, service and management employees, and especially, business leaders, benefit from the understanding of multi-cultures. Intelligence cultural can be developed by means of the following:
- Corporate training;
- International experiences;
- Group discussions that stimulate teamwork in heterogeneous groups;
- Lectures with mental triggers about reciprocity, empathy, etc.
Check out below 5 steps that will help you put this form of learning into practice.
1. Study cases of multinational companies
Knowing the intercultural experiences of multinational companies is an efficient way of observing how exchanges between people with different perceptions are beneficial.
Search for cases of companies that stand out in their areas and share it with your employees.
2. Learn about new cultures
If possible, invest in international corporate trips. Knowledge about other cultures, especially by leadership, contributes to the strengthening of a creative economy, considering that cultural or historical heritage is one of the pillars of dynamic corporate development.
3. Exercise tolerance towards differences
In training and qualification courses, and group discussions, include reflections that lead to exercising tolerance. Activities that encourage contact with differences and the best ways to act in terms of diverse values are quite welcome.
Thus, employees will be able to exercise three of the intercultural intelligence components: cognition, metacognition, and behavior.
4. Develop interest
As to the motivational component, awakening interest for different cultures and for the context of multi-culture is essential. This is the foundation on which to establish a genuinely tolerant working environment.
To do so, it’s worth investing in lectures about different cultures. Another tip is to prepare presentations and gather statistics that demonstrate the benefits that cultural exchanges can bring not only to the working environment, but also to one’s personal development.
5. Invest in emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence has become highly valued in the corporate world. It deals with the management of emotions, so that interpersonal interactions are not affected by any negative feelings.
This is also an interesting path to develop the ability to deal with culturally different people.
Therefore, one tip is to promote training programs and activities in order to provide understanding and the refinement of employee emotional intelligence. This includes the following:
- Rational control of emotions;
- Ability to cope with pressure;
- Development of empathy, etc.
Well, why should you invest in intercultural intelligence?
As we’ve seen, intercultural intelligence is the ability to recognize, accept and deal with differences in values and perceptions related to cultural backgrounds.
Currently, investing in it means making sure you’re preparing employees for a context of exchanges that, if well exploited, can lead to their development.
Not to mention that it contributes to the internationalization of the business, since in this case, it is necessary to understand multiculturalism in order to properly promote your product or service around the world.
And while we’re on this subject, take the time to learn about international marketing and when to apply it!