Thursday, May 28, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

To Understand, but...

I'm too full of human-nature. A group is diverse enough as long as it includes me, I think, and I believe that that's most people's true definition of diversity, i.e., as long as I'm included -- whoever "I" is -- then the group is sufficiently diverse...I mean, I think that when people *really* think about our basic sense of inclusion, before we remember to add sophistication/doing the right thing to it, that's how we feel.

Last night, I walked out of my Intercultural Communication class, thinking, Really, I just want everyone to see how interesting *my* culture is, i.e., that I'm a Jewish-American-lesbian-left-handed-IBMer from the East coast, but who has lived in the Midwest and abroad a couple of times.

Shame washed over these thoughts, as I knew that they were the opposite of what the class is trying to teach.

Also, as loquacious as I can be, I'm known to be a good listener, too, and I'm interested in people and what moves them...but I'm not a huge Peace Education champion, and I also recall my experience with a basic practicum in Conflict Resolution last summer: excellent class, learned a great deal and concluded that no one could pay me to be a professional mediator, as I just don't want to help people understand one another's viewpoints for a living, let alone have to seek to understand all sides all day long.

Actually, there was some of that with being a people-manager, but not to the degree that the practicum or this class is focusing on it. Why would I sign up for this course then? I'd like to know how to be a more effective intercultural communicator, I say, but aren't I really trying to figure out how to transmit more appealing messages about my own culture and identity?

I can hear Pat, my mom, sisters and friends saying, "Don't be so hard on yourself. At least you're willing to take such a class, which most people wouldn't be curious enough to do. True. And as I wrote above, I do feel that most people are happy if their culture and identity is regarded and included, as opposed to consciously seeking to include others I'm probably no worse in my attitude than many, but I'm also earnest enough to wish I were more generous in my curiosity about others' cultures.

My favorite part of being an IBMer is that I've met, and become friends with, people from cultures that differ vastly from mine, and that's how I've learned most of what I've learned about other cultures. What's the point of wanting to understand or at least listen to people from other cultures? The book by Anne Fadiman is among the answers. Listening can be a matter of life and death, if we want to take the fear-based approach to intercultural communication, i.e., we'd better learn to communicate, as people's lives hang in the balance. What a memorable book, so I'm not criticizing it at all; I loved it!

What I'd like to do, too, though, is to *want* to become better at listening to people from other cultures openly in order, simply, to live in a more interesting world.

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