Being culturally sensitive can turn your interactions with others from hostile and offensive to friendly and enriching. Meeting people from other cultures is an excellent opportunity to expand your horizons and your social circle. The problem is that a lack of knowledge can result in rude remarks or offensive behaviors that can cause trouble. Knowing how to be sensitive to other people's cultural backgrounds is a skill that is necessary in every area of life.
Don't Make Assumptions
Ignorance often leads people to offend or disrespect someone from a different culture. Although you might think that you know a certain culture, you might be basing your perspective on stereotypes or assumptions. Keep in mind that every person experiences their culture differently. Even if we think all people from a certain heritage behave a certain way or have specific customs, the particular person that you're dealing with may not. Avoid making any cultural assumptions when interacting with people from another culture. Instead, take a curious approach and ask them to tell you about their traditions, customs and everyday life. This way, you can better assess their own perspective and avoid offending them.
Understand Your Own Worldview
Your world view is your personal perspective on the world and the different cultures that exist. If you want to be more sensitive of others, you need to start by analyzing your own views. Social psychologist Camille Johnson explains in a "Psychology Today" article that you should begin by understanding your own cultural background and ethnicity. She says, "If you understand yourself, you are better prepared to recognize and embrace alternatives." Think about how your background and heritage have shaped who you are. Compare yourself to other people with a similar heritage and notice how there are differences between you. Analyze your own perspective, biases and stereotypes regarding other cultures.
Expose Yourself to Other Cultures
Experiencing other cultures and interacting with different people can change your world view and make you more culturally sensitive. If possible, travel to places that are different to what you are used to. Many universities have study abroad programs, and high schools often have foreign exchange programs. Immersing yourself in a different culture helps you to better understand your own perspective as you come to understand the perspective of the culture that is new to you. You can also surround yourself by different kinds of people you don't usually interact with. Volunteer at a local immigration center, join an international club at school or do some charity work. Interacting with people that have different lifestyles and backgrounds can be an eye-opening experience that will help you to become more sensitive to other viewpoints and perspectives.
Being culturally sensitive involves understanding that culture can have an influence on personal boundaries. Always keep in mind that even if you are comfortable with something, it doesn't mean other people will find it acceptable. When meeting someone from a different culture, take your relationship slow and don't jump into doing things that can make them uncomfortable, such as visiting their home, doing something personal for them or asking intimate questions. Gauge their behavior and adjust your relationship with them accordingly.
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