I have written this scenario from the perspective of 'David', who has moved from his small hometown to the most populous city in his country. My hope is that this example will help to illustrate the usefulness of the Individual Cross-Cultural Interactions model, as applied in a real-world situation. While the scenario focuses on one particular aspect (geographic region) of cultural identity, it is possible that additional aspects of identity will emerge in the interactions between David and his co-worker over time.
When David arrived, his new job required him to work with a colleague, ‘Thomas’, who had grown up in the city. In David's interactions with Thomas over the first few weeks on the job, he found himself frustrated by what he perceived to be Thomas’ lack of social niceties. Thomas didn't ask David how his day was going and he always seemed to get right down to business. David felt that Thomas was consistently being rude to him. Rather than continue to feel annoyed, however, David decided it would be more productive to take a step back and reflect with greater intention upon their interactions. Using the ICCI model, David considered the following:
Given the aspects of your own cultural identity, how would you describe your deeply held values?
David tends to value harmony among colleagues (and friends). From his formative years in the small town where he was raised, he learned that it was important to maintain a sense of equilibrium within a work team or social group.
Given the aspects of the other person’s cultural identity, how might they describe their deeply held values?
Based on what Thomas said during his interactions with David, it appeared that he valued authenticity in his professional and personal relationships. It seemed that being 'real' was more important to Thomas than being nice and David observed a similar perspective from some of the other individuals he met who had been raised in the city.
How are you responding--behaviorally (verbal and non-verbal communication), cognitively, and emotionally?
Behavior: While David's words seemed to convey a friendly attitude toward Thomas, his body language (e.g., raised eyebrows) sometimes betrayed David’s sense of frustration toward Thomas.
Cognitive: Upon reflection, David recognized that his thinking was directed toward a judgment of Thomas without understanding his context.
Emotional: David was feeling anger toward Thomas based on his perception of Thomas' 'rudeness'.
How might they be responding--behaviorally (verbal and non-verbal communication), cognitively, and emotionally?
Behavior: Thomas spoke about work, focusing on the task at hand. His body language seemed restrained (from David's perspective).
Cognitive: It's possible that Thomas perceived David as insincere in their interactions, as David’s verbal and non-verbal communication seemed to be sending conflicting messages. Thomas might have also asked himself why David didn’t just get on with business.
Emotional: Perhaps Thomas was feeling frustrated, or confused, by his interactions with David. It is also a possibility that Thomas wasn’t experiencing much of an emotional reaction at all.
In summary, taking the time to more intentionally consider his interactions with Thomas allowed David to develop a more thoughtful approach to their professional relationship. While one can never fully know or understand another person’s perspective, asking one’s self these reflective questions can mark a significant step toward deeper awareness.