How to help people of divergent cultural beliefs…with empathy?

Oh by the by, you will need to fully understand yourself FIRST!

Empathy is an important tool for understanding and connecting with people who come from different cultural backgrounds. I use the word divergent on purpose because you learn so much more from people of divergent cultural beliefs than from the boy or girl next door. Hence America, the melting pot!

Here are some ways to approach educating yourself and understanding people of divergent cultural beliefs with empathy. The focus is on your elevation of awareness and intent to understand by accepting others.

  1. Recognize and respect cultural differences: It’s important to acknowledge that people from different cultures will have different beliefs, values, and traditions. Your intent from the start must be to listen, learn and ask better questions in your conversation. Act to understand and comprehend, and appreciate these differences, rather than jumping to conclusions before you place their meaning into context. 
  2. Listen actively: Take the time to invoke your intelligent voids of familiarity with their culture. Remember the boot is on the other foot, and they do not fully understand you. Hence this is a grand opportunity for some serious cultural enrichment, and I am not talking about fraternization. Actively listen to what others have to say, without interrupting or imposing your own beliefs or opinions. Pay attention to nonverbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice, which will provide important context.
  3. Practice open-mindedness: This requires you to do the work. The work of arresting your inner need to interrupt, cover over what you think they are saying by your inner conversation and believe in what they are saying as the reality of the moment between the both or among you all. Keep an open mind and avoid making assumptions about people based on their cultural background. You do not know all the tribal nuances of the country they come from, just like they do not know all the tribal nuances of Americans or any other country for that matter. Be willing to learn and educate your assumptions and biases.
  4. Show curiosity: Show interest in learning more about other cultures by asking questions and showing curiosity. This can help create a safe and open space for people to share their beliefs and experiences.
  5. Avoid stereotypes: Avoid making generalizations or stereotypes about people based on their cultural background. Every individual is unique, and cultural beliefs and practices can vary greatly even within a single cultural group.
  6. Be mindful of language: Be mindful of language use and avoid using language that may be offensive or insensitive to people from different cultural backgrounds.
  7. Be patient: Be patient and respectful when engaging with people from different cultural backgrounds, especially when discussing sensitive topics that you are ignorant of from their point of view. Remember that it will take time to build trust and understanding. Ask yourself, at what point in meeting someone for the first time do you allow yourself to trust them?

By the by in case you are already loading up with ammunition and getting ready for a knockdown drag-out fight, consider the Amish of the United States, who choose to limit their contact with other cultures. They are having a difficult time with their youth as they desire the appearance of ‘freedom’, we as ‘English’ flaunt.

By approaching people of divergent cultural beliefs with empathy, you will help build bridges and promote understanding between different cultures. 

Let’s elevate the conversation one more time and see what just might happen.

Oh by the by, did I say you will need to fully understand yourself FIRST!

Thank you for reading this article.

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Feel free to provide your perspective on any of the issues and topics I touch on as the true value of any exchange in interpersonal conversations is found in the differences we express.

Be seeing you!
Ronald M. Allen