In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 21st to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development to promote dialogue across religions and cultures. This holiday urges policymakers to keep cultural practices and beliefs front-of-mind when creating legislation and setting public policy.
Whether the day is observed by religious communities to learn about other faiths, groups of friends to share what makes their families unique, or individuals through the celebration of intercultural food, music, and film, this holiday is rooted in something all of us can relate to: the need to actively listen to an audience before designing a solution to meet their needs.
Groups devoted to diversity and inclusion in the workplace should observe the World Day for Cultural Diversity to help their members broaden their horizons about other cultures and foster an environment of cross-cultural learning. Putting oneself in the shoes of someone from another background promotes empathy and understanding. It helps add nuance to otherwise black and white conversations and decode shades of complexity and assume positive intent in people who disagree with us.
Even when people are working together toward a common goal, truly effective communication is often difficult. Listening requires attention, compassion, and empathy. Responding requires thoughtful consideration, tact, and emotional intelligence. For instance, an effective educator, trainer, or instructor must take the time to analyze the culture of her audience before she begins teaching. Some initial questions may be similar to: what concerns this group? What motivates them? What is their daily schedule like and what time are they most receptive to learning? How have they historically responded to similar training? What challenges are they preparing for and does this training help or hinder them?
The complexity and difficulty only grow as we consider larger and more fraught conversations, like those involved in public policy. But as issues get more complex, they also become more important. Passing a law that impacts thousands or millions of people can only be done effectively if time is spent to first understand the cultural needs of the people who will be affected by the legislation. This requires having the foresight, empathy, and patience to ask the right questions and listen effectively.
The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is a good reminder that even larger public policy conversations can be rooted in dialogue and in listening. On both large and small scales, it is only when we truly understand the needs, challenges, history, and culture of a community that we can develop a solution to effectively meet their needs.
In your own personal celebration of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, challenge yourself to demonstrate active listening, to seek to understand, and to learn something new about a new culture you interact with day-to-day.
About the Author
Jamie Hand is a leader of strategic planning and alignment at COUNTRY Financial in central Illinois. Jamie is a recovering perfectionist, an avid reader, and is passionate about inclusive leadership and communication. She can be reached at [email protected].
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