Cultural Filters: Part Two
What You Will Learn:
- Namita shares how others’ filters lead to comments from them on her lack of a “foreign” accent, which belies the occasional language differences that she sometimes encounters even today
- How people often have the expectation that Namita, an Asian woman, will be passive or quiet, and how they are surprised when she steps outside their expectations
- How Namita has experienced expectations around her ability with technology and computer programming entirely because she is Asian
- How the stereotypes Namita has experienced over her career have impacted her, even (and especially) when she doesn’t fit the stereotype
- How Namita also experiences these expectations from others in the Asian community, and how people often assume Namita is her kids’ nanny rather than their mom
- Namita offers her perspective on the increase in incidents of violence against Asain women, and why that race-based hate is frightening to Namita
- Why negative news headlines often reference the race of an individual when they are non-white but not when they are white, and how this impacts marginalized communities
- Why it is vital to consider the possibility that someone else’s experiences aren’t the same as your own and recognize your own cultural filters
- What advice Namita offers for anyone who is being forced to confront microaggressions and bias situations in the workplace
Cultural Filters: Examining How Our Filters Impact Our Workplace Interactions
We all have specific cultural filters, unconscious lenses through which we see the world. These follow us from interaction to interaction, from our home lives to our workplaces. Recognizing these filters is crucial for engaging with others more effectively, especially across the “differences that make a difference”.
In the previous episode of the What’s The Difference podcast, I was joined by Namita Eveloy, an expert and senior consultant here at deepSEE Consulting. Namita has a fascinating and unique perspective to share as a first-generation Asian immigrant to the United States who moved here when she was just eight years old.
Namita has experienced many different situations of bias, microaggressions and other situations that spawned from the filters through which others viewed her and set expectations of her. In this week’s follow-up episode, Namita shared how these experiences often run both ways, when people are surprised when she doesn’t fit their expectations.
These two special episodes of the podcast are all about cultural filters and how they inform our interactions, often unconsciously. What happens when filters clash, when two parties are viewing the exact same situation through different lenses? And what happens when you defy someone’s expectations set by their filters? Understanding filters can lead to engaging in a much more effective way, in the workplace and in any other situation in which we find ourselves needing to interact across differences.
When Cultural Filters Differ
Here in the United States, our dominant culture typically places a greater focus on individuality, on determining one’s own destiny. This isn’t universal, of course, but at the wider cultural level we do lean towards greater individualism. However, in other cultures around the world, the emphasis seems to lean more towards a collectivistic culture in which there is greater pressure to conform to a unifying standard.
So, what happens when these filters clash? Frequently, misunderstandings, miscommunications or friction result. Whether it is in how we communicate, what actions we consider to be “polite” or socially expected, or even in how we engage with figures of authority, we must remember that our filters aren’t universal. What we consider to be “casual office banter”, someone with different filters might see as disrespectful or inappropriate.
When We Defy Others’ Expectations and Stereotypes
As Namita explained in our conversation, she is often greeted with surprise by other moms when they realize she isn’t her own children’s nanny but rather their mother. Her children are mixed race and lighter skinned than she is, and so she is often presumed to be their nanny. These kinds of microaggressions often come from situations in which we step outside the expectations of others.
Likewise, throughout her career people have assumed certain details about Namita’s personality based on their cultural filters and expectations. As an Asian woman, she is often expected to be demure, quiet, great with technology, and other stereotypes, even if the truth is wildly different from people’s expectations.
However, this isn’t always a two-way street. As Namita mentioned, when incidents of violence occur, the news headlines often mention the person’s race if they are non-white but seldom or never mention their race if they are white. When the September 11 terror attacks took place, there was a swift and violent backlash against many members of the Middle Eastern-American community, and the news media made a constant point of mentioning the race of the terrorists. However, when a white gunman shot and killed 23 people in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas in 2019, the fact that he was a white man wasn’t mentioned in the headlines nearly as often, even though he was specifically targeting the Latinx community.
This is why we must work to be aware of our own filters and to ask the very important question “can we consider the possibility…?” Can we consider the possibility that someone else’s experiences don’t match our own? What changes if that possibility were true? How would that inform our interactions? Recognizing our filters is crucial for more effective communication, and the first step is to ask ourselves, “can we consider the possibility?”
To reach out to Namita Eveloy, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.deepseeconsulting.com. I also invite you to visit our podcast archive found at https://whatsthedifferencepodcast.com/ for more informative episodes like these.
About Namita Eveloy
Namita Eveloy is an experienced professional with a broad background in Leadership Development, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Organizational Development. With extensive experience facilitating learning for multinational companies, Namita knows how to navigate large, matrixed corporations. With professional experience in five countries, in both public and private sectors, Namita offers an unmatched international perspective.
Namita holds an MBA from the prestigious Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Master’s in Education from the University of Minnesota.
How to Connect with Namita Eveloy: