March 24, 2021

Giving Up or Adding On: The Benefits of Cultural Competence, with Sara Taylor

Episode 75:

Giving Up or Adding On: The Benefits of Cultural Competence

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What patterns and challenges people often struggle with when developing their cultural competence, and why the sense of “having to give up” is a common obstacle
  • Sara gives a hypothetical example to illustrate the importance of how you deliver a message to get your intent across effectively
  • Why shifting our filters isn’t about giving anything up but instead can be a powerful way to “add on” in our messaging
  • Why Black women are often given the message that to be “professional” or “promotable”, they must have the “right” hair
  • Why we don’t have to abandon our preferences but instead shift how we see and understand those preferences
  • Why people often retreat to their “favorite tools” if they’re in a lower stage of effectiveness, and how moving out of our automatic responses gives us more effective tools
  • Why pushback from the perspective of the dominant culture often comes from fear of losing out, whereas from a nondominant culture it comes from frustration
  • Why we must first recognize and acknowledge the frustration someone from a nondominant culture may feel
  • Why shifting our filters allows us to be more effective in navigating difference, and why being intentional isn’t about losing something but about gaining

Giving Up or Adding On: The Benefits of Cultural Competence

One of the most common forms of pushback against DEI work is that people often feel like they’re being forced to “give up” something…often something they consider to be a key part of their identity.

However, one of the benefits of cultural competence — the ability to navigate the differences that make a difference — is that it gives you new tools to be able to use rather than taking anything away from you.

As I explain during this week’s solocast episode of What’s The Difference podcast, it’s like a mechanic having a favorite tool, a wrench for example. Adding more tools to the mechanic’s toolbox doesn’t mean they can’t still use that trusty wrench…but that wrench may not be the right tool for every situation. Cultural competence gives you more options, more tools to use so that you can choose the one that fits the situation. It doesn’t strip anything away from you. That favorite wrench is still there, waiting for the moment when it’s the right tool for the job.

The Benefits of Cultural Competence in Effective Communication

Communicating effectively often requires tailoring your messaging to your audience. You probably wouldn’t communicate with a teenager in the same way you would communicate with your grandparents, for example. Cultural competence allows you to more effectively communicate across differences by adding new tools and filters you can use to better understand a situation.

Again, this is additive, not subtractive. You don’t have to give anything up to add new communication skills. Your existing skills are still there, you are just adding another layer of depth to them.

So often, the pushback we as DEI practitioners see from the perspective of someone in the dominant culture is coming from a place of fear. The unknown can be scary — but that’s precisely why developing your cultural competence can be so powerful. It can help you tackle unfamiliar situations more effectively. The work is hard, but it is always worth it.

Benefits of Cultural Competence

About Sara Taylor

Sara Taylor earned a master’s degree in Diversity and Organizational Development from the University of Minnesota. She served as a leadership and diversity specialist at the University of Minnesota for five years and as director of diversity and inclusion for Ramsey County, Minnesota for three years.

Sara is the founder and president of deepSEE Consulting and has worked with companies as large as Coca-Cola, General Mills, 3M Company, AARP, and numerous others. She has a new book, “Filter Shift: How Effective People See the World,” that explores how our unconscious is actually making choices and decisions for us, all without our knowing — and how to change that.

How to Connect with Sara Taylor: