Emotional intelligence has become one of the most valued skills sought after by HR directors. Having this asset makes you a better communicator, problem solver, and overall team player--because it allows you to see the perspectives of others. When you're able to appreciate multiple perspectives and implement them into your work--you tend to get a more well-informed and well-rounded result.
For innovative teams, diversity of thought is a must-have. It's no good to have a team that all thinks the same way because it's likely that certain aspects of a project will be missed. When there is a team of diverse thinkers--that's where the magic happens and where emotional intelligence really comes into play. But with the incredible cultural diversity in the United States, many of us find ourselves work with team members from another country. This where "Cultural Intelligence" is really necessary.
You could say that cultural intelligence is kind of like emotional intelligence, but it goes a step further. Chances are, if you're an emotionally intelligent person and work with another person who grew up in the same culture as you, you probably understand their social cues, speech patterns, sense of humor, etc. If your partner is from another culture with a different set of social norms, your communication might be off.
So how do you become more culturally intelligent? Sean Hopwood, President, Day Translations says you should learn a new language. Hopwood speaks seven languages with varying degrees of fluency and has learned the cultural intricacies that go with them. Here's what he suggests:
Remove Your Fear
I have found that learning languages and discovering new cultures makes you less afraid of them and more open and tolerant of new people and different ideas. People fear the unknown. Learning a person's language helps you to understand how they think and why they act in a certain way; you therefore become more culturally intelligent and aware.
Honor de Balzac once said "our greatest fears lie in anticipation" and nowhere is this more certain than when taking your first steps towards learning about new cultures. So quit worrying about it. Stop over-thinking it. No one was born speaking multiple languages and everyone makes mistakes at some point; that's how we learn.
Be an Attentive Listener
It's important to listen carefully when learning a language. It's very easy to get caught up thinking about what you're going to say next and how to pronounce the words properly that you forget to listen to what the other person is saying. And that's not good. It's better to reply to the right question with a few mistakes, than to launch into an irrelevant diatribe that could be perceived as lack of interest in what the speaker is saying. Learning a second language should start with a silent period, as you learn to speak, observe, watch and, above all, listen.
Break it Down
As with any large project, important task or goal, instead of examining a foreign language from the outside and being dissuaded by the enormity of the task; break it down into achievable goals. Aim to learn three new words a day and how to use them in a sentence, for example. Don't play to your insecurities or assume that other people are more intelligent than you are because they speak several languages. I can say with absolutely clarity that each and every one of them has felt stupid, frustrated, embarrassed and irrelevant at some point during their learning. It's a rite of passage.
Be Open Minded
I'm going to go ahead and assume that if you're reading this, then you probably already have an inquisitive mind. That's good, because learning a language is about living the language. Discovering a people, culture, set of beliefs and value systems different from your own. If you're not going to try new foods or participate in different national celebrations; if you're not open to viewing the world from a different perspective, then you won't be able to become more culturally intelligent.
Don't Overestimate the Power of Immersion
Sure, it helped me learning Arabic in Morocco in the Medina. Yes, it can be one of the fastest ways to get fluent quick (and have fun while you're doing it) but don't overestimate the power or immersion or underestimate the ability to learn a language fluently from home. Simply being in another country won't automatically make you fluent in the language or more culturally intelligent. It just means that you're in another country. If you hang out with expats, teach or work in English, or keep yourself to yourself, then you may as well stay at home. On the other hand, if you have an inquiring mind, reach out to foreign language speakers in your own country, listen to songs, watch movies, go to dances and attend intercultural nights where you live, there's no reason why you can't become fluent in your desired language or more culturally intelligent.