Cultural Competence, From The Top To The Bottom Of The Iceberg


Picture an iceberg. The tip that pokes out of the water is what is visible. Culturally, the tip of the iceberg is what is apparent in the way a person behaves and communicates with others – their interaction style. But underneath the surface of the water is a much larger mass of the iceberg, which represents the way a person processes information and how they view themselves – their thinking style and sense of self. A person’s thinking style and sense of self influence how they make judgments, perceive others and ultimately behave in groups. Whereas someone’s interaction style is immediately obvious to their colleagues, their thinking style and sense of self are harder to perceive.

By gaining and leveraging cultural competence, a person can learn how to read someone else’s cultural orientations – whether the most obvious interaction style preferences, or the less-apparent thinking style and sense-of-self preferences – which will help them avoid misunderstandings or conflicts. This facilitates working together more efficiently and productively – an essential skill in the modern business world.

Karen Walch