“We often don’t see things as they are – we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin
I love this quote! It captures how we look at people, events, and ideas through our own life experiences, our beliefs, and our feelings. In other words, we look through our own cultural lenses. We all do it. It’s human nature. The key is to realize that we do, recognize when we do it, and to be honest with ourselves about how it might impact those around us.
This is addressed in diversity and inclusion training and in teaching cultural competence skills. It’s not a matter of pointing fingers or even labeling anything good or bad. It’s about examining PERSPECTIVE. What lens are we looking through? How does that lens give us clarity or cloud the issue?
In a previous blog, I discussed culture and cultural identity. There are Types of cultures and Elements of each of these types of cultures. For example: Race and Ethnicity are types of culture. Values and beliefs, social relationships, view of time, and communication patterns are elements of these cultures. These elements are interpreted differently by each culture. Unfortunately, many people favor or advance their interpretation as the correct or right interpretation. The cartoon below demonstrates this.
Ironically, both women in the cartoon have drawn the same conclusion about the other, but for different reasons. Both place judgment on the other from their own cultural perspective. Taking it a step further, they might even assume their culture and cultural views to be superior. Ethnocentrism is “judging another culture by the values of one’s own culture.” And more often than not, that judging results in superior/inferior attitudes and labels. We see this happening in news stories, in our daily lives, in our workplaces, churches, and schools. There are effective strategies we can use to examine and dismantle this kind of one-sided thinking. Please contact me for further discussion, or to learn more about my services.