I recently experimented with a card game called Diversophy which is designed to help people learn more about intercultural competence. People draw cards and comment on quotes or answer questions and gain points accordingly. For example:
Question: “We are often told to be tolerant. Which of these behaviors is the least useful when exercising or using tolerance?
A. “Putting up” with things that annoy you.
B. Avoiding words or behaviors that give offense to others.
C. Refusing to take offense when the words or behaviors of others are difficult to accept or understand.
Answer: “A” is the least useful, as “putting up” or “suffering through” with the words or actions of others is usually accompanied by negative judgments and feelings. Not giving offense to others is important, but refusing to take offense is even more critical for resolving culturally conflicted situations. Choose to be curious rather than resentful!
Something to reflect on… how would it change both your attitude and your behavior if your response to behaviors and values that are culturally different than your own was to refuse to be offended and to choose to be curious?
The reality is when we are easily offended or when we move quickly to judgment of other cultures we short circuit learning. Refusing to be offended and choosing to be curious gives us the opportunity to gain greater understanding.
In the end, that greater understanding may lead us to change our judgment or it may confirm our initial negative judgment. Either way, we will be more likely to make a fair and accurate assessment of different cultural behaviors if we determine to learn and deeply understand before we make that judgment.