a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis
Years ago there was an ad promoting the intelligence of ATMs showing the ATM saying to a regular user, “Your usual $50”, Mr. _____.
It got pulled shortly thereafter.
My hunch why that happened is that, while it seemed caring and friendly on the surface, it also evoked an image of “big brother” — eliciting such thoughts as, “My God! Look what they (“the powers that be”) know about me!” –thus not only a violation of privacy but also loss of autonomy, characterized by, “I want to be given the choice to decide how much I want, even if I end up choosing the same amount”.
And in US mainstream culture, this often outweighs appreciation for someone knowing what you would want without you having to ask, a marketing approach cultivated in technology by Apple and Google and now even further by Google in its latest venture, “Google Introduces New Search Tools to Try to Read Our Minds”.
The anticipation of wants and needs approach is appealing at some level even within the US– reminiscent of being catered to without having to ask or do anything for oneself (a sign of class privilege, full service vacation, nursing home, or nursery—take your pick).
The challenge of course for marketers is to determine which aspect of culture will prevail: marketing autonomy or having someone correctly anticipate your next wish or need.
As might be expected different cultures line up differently on this question.
Takie Sugiyama Lebra, in her book Japanese Patterns of Behavior, for example, talked about the Japanese cultural concept omoiyari, empathic consideration and/or correct anticipation of someone else’s needs, and compares that to US Mainstream culture, that asks people what they want—not only as a courtesy but at a deeper cultural level: respect for individual autonomy and self-determination.
These differences underlie why, in Lebra’s example, a Japanese woman marvels at witnessing a US Mainstream wife asking her husband after 25 years of marriage how he wants his morning coffee. She thinks, “Doesn’t she know how he wants his coffee after 25 years of marriage?”
At the same time, a US Mainstream person might well object even if someone correctly anticipated what they wanted but did not ask them first.
By way of contrast, a Japanese person, as Lebra put it, “couldn’t care less”, not only not bothered by the absence of choice but annoyed at being constantly asked, “What do you want … like to do” when visiting the US.
Our Latino colleague was always irked when a professional he saw –his dentist say—would ask him to choose between methods of treatment that he offered.
He would think, “He, after all, is the professional and in a much better position to know what the right course of action is.”
He saw handing over that decision to him as a shirking of professional responsibility–also someone else to blame if things went wrong.
Of course the other side of the equation is that even in cultures which embrace anticipation of someone else’s needs –it is also important to get it right.
Drawing upon Lebra again–she also talks about the Japanese cultural concept osekkai, or “meddlesomeness”, for people who often act on the basis of what they think others would or should want or need and get it wrong.
One thing then that seems consistent across all cultures –whatever the pattern– is the importance of getting things right, preferably, up front, also knowing that (again different in different cultures) there may be little or no forgiveness after the fact, if you don’t.
Are you ready for that?
The following blog is written by our friend Michael.
As you may know, today the people in the State of Washington are voting on Referendum 74 which will allow same-sex marriages.
I really didn’t think much about the vote but today the whole idea of the referendum is really starting to weigh heavily on me. I feel very uneasy and it’s hard to concentrate on my daily activities.
The reason why I feel like I am carrying a large sack of rocks on my shoulders today is because my life is hanging in a balance. Besides myself, there are a great number of people who get to choose which way the scales will tip in regards to the issue of same-sex marriage including my neighbors, friends, coworkers, strangers on the street and people I will never know.
The vote isn’t about allowing same gendered people to marry, but instead it is questioning the validity and authenticity of same-sex relationships. It is asking people to decide if the validity and authenticity of same-sex marriages are equal in all ways to heterosexual marriages to the point that same-sex couples should enjoy the same benefits equal and afforded to married heterosexual couples.
I don’t like the fact that I know people are voting on the validity of my relationship with my partner. It is as if my commitment to him is in question and somehow no matter how much I love him or am committed to his well-being, I have to go the extra mile to prove it to others.
When I see a married heterosexual couple I don’t question their commitment to one another. The fact that they are married declares that they profess a level of commitment to each other that is exclusive and accepted by those around them without question. Read more »
We’re excited to announce a December 6th workshop featuring a new collaboration of tools, processes and strategies to help organizations effectively navigate cross-cultural conflict, with a special emphasis on the four LGBT co-cultures. Here’s what KMA and Cultural Detective customers have to say about their experiences:
“The program provides a platform to speak about a sensitive topic and reminds of the importance that we’re talking about four co-cultures versus one group.”
“The program offered specific solutions for situations I’ve found myself in both personally and professionally.”
“Real world examples that resonate with employees.”
“Your seminar was a beautiful illustration of the effect of the quality of cultural response in an executive’s decision process. The interactive example was instructive and memorable—not a person in the room hadn’t been in situations precisely like those we experienced in the practical exercise. Yet, we had in this case an opportunity to ‘unpack’ the experience and follow its likely conclusion.”
LGBT Cultural Competency Online Workshop – Thursday, December 6th, 10 a.m.-11:30a.m.
D&I leaders, employee resource groups, cross-cultural trainers and allies will experience KMA’s web-based training in conjunction with Cultural Detective LGBT cross-cultural skill-building tool and process. Participation is limited.
LGBT subject matter expert, Rita Wuebbler, will lead the workshop delivering several key takeaways:
- Learn LGBT shared values and beliefs which motivate behavior and important
- Develop a shared language and strategy for discussing differences in the workplace and promoting inclusion
- Identify workplace practices to support LGBT colleagues
- Experience a core process to effectively navigate cross-cultural conflict with specific emphasis on LGBT culture
Several men have asked me lately, “Why would any woman vote for Romney?”
What they have in mind is, “Why would a woman vote for the government to decide what they can and can’t do with their bodies?
My hunch is that in some of the swing states, as a recent AP study showed, a perfect storm of racism and religious conservatism drive an anti-Obama vote from women, especially from the time Obama was elected President.
As for religious conservatism, Steven Pinker wrote an interesting piece, “Why are States So Red and Blue?” in which he identifies the world view of individuals in red states as having what he calls a “Tragic Vision” of human beings, while blue state individuals tend to have a more “Utopian Vision”.
He also suggests that social conservatives put a premium on deference to authority, conformity to norms and the purity and sanctity of the body.
Consequently, if human beings are flawed, “their behavior must be restrained by custom, authority, and sacred values.”
Those with a more Utopian view of human nature, on the other hand, “believe individuals are capable of wisdom and reason and can determine for themselves what is fair, harmful or hurtful.”
Pinker goes on to offer theories as to why these different world views might be tied to geography.
Much of his argument is reinforced in Jim Webb’s enlightening book, “Born Fighting” about Scots-Irish settlement and migration.
I would like to hear from readers, especially, women readers, why they think women would vote for Romney.
Rules governing U.S. mainstream discourse deal with format and style, not substance. Sentences are parsed less for their substance, than for the manner in which things are said.
In the first Presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the media and public in general declared Obama the loser because his presentational style was too “professorial” and “conciliatory.”
In the last Vice Presidential debate, Joe Biden’s performance vis-à-vis Paul Ryan was downgraded, because he “interrupted.”
On CNN, ratings on who won the debate come in before the viewers were given the “reality” or, “fact-check”.
Yet in service of truth telling, misstatement of facts needs to be challenged when they are being said.
Doubt has to be planted early before those hearing it can give credence to it.
This is especially true when the attention span of people is limited.
The edge and moment is lost waiting until someone has finished.
Has anyone considered that when creating the format of a debate?
Cultural conflicts are systemic in nature, arising not from malice or bad intentions but from different underlying values, standards, or protocols.
These can be a source of friction, frustration or fun.
Whether it is one or the other depends upon how far away you are from where the conflict occurred or whether you are personally affected.
Mel Brooks’ definition of comedy and tragedy applies here. “Tragedy is when things happen to you. Comedy is when they happen to someone else.”
Jean Mavrelis talks about a conflict between her Jewish dad and Irish mom when members of the “other” group came over for dinner. Her Irish mom, complaining about the Jewish relatives, would say, “They come, they don’t drink, they eat, and they leave.” To which her Jewish dad would retort, “And when your relatives come, they drink, don’t eat, and never leave.”
For Jean –a generation removed—her parent’s argument is now just a story, one that she uses in our diversity training to make a cultural point. For her parents, however, more was at stake. Their difference –because of their emotional investment- was not simply a matter of right and left, but right and wrong, and because of that, more friction and frustration than fun. Read more »
I had gone with my daughter Simi to Baltimore to get her situated there before she starts graduate school and then we took a trip to DC. We had just come back from visiting the Holocaust Museum when we heard this news in our hotel room.
My husband, Sohan is in Vancouver visiting his mother and my son, Raj, is in Cambodia (work).
I will be getting home on Friday and will contact the Gurdwara in Denver to get more info.
Some of my initial thoughts, beyond this horrible tragedy, are that we ( Sikhs) need to take a more active role in educating our local communities about us.
It may not be enough to prevent tragedies but it may help our local communities understand who we are, since all TV reporters were struggling with that.
I also feel that even though it may be an incident of mistaken identity (thinking that the Sikhs are somehow involved with the Taliban because they wear turbans), the Sikhs should also understand that hatred has no boundaries.
Anyone who is different or appears different is a target.
Sikhs in America have faced violence against them before 9/11 as well though it has increased after 9/11.
Infectious laugh. Smiling eyes. Consummate professional. Soulful spirit. Signature dreads.
The KMA family is saddened by the sudden loss of our dear friend and colleague, Donna Bostic. Anyone who had the good fortune to work with Donna – as a trainer, colleague or author – knew firsthand her enthusiasm and joie de vivre. She met challenges with a smile and exuberance, and met people in the same way. Donna added to our team and to each of us individually.
We will build a “Best of Bostic” album on our Facebook page and encourage you to email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donna leaves behind two beloved daughters, two beloved grandchildren , a beloved sister and brother along with a host of other relations.
Having known Donna, we are confident she would want us to celebrate her life. Let’s take a moment to do that. We each have Donna stories to share; we invite you to add a comment to this post.
Lastly, expressions of love and memories of can be shared with her family at email@example.com.
On behalf of Donna’s family, thank you for honoring her in such a beautiful way.
When we started the development of our new Corporate Tribalism: LGBT Culture module I knew I would learn a lot about others– what I didn’t know was how much I would learn about myself. As with all of the KMA programs, the content is driven by insiders and for this particular module I worked with several subject matter experts to drive all four elements of the program.
Beyond the pile of LGBT books on my bedside table, I was having great conversations with individuals who brought their unique perspectives about being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender to life. Despite the fact that I have close friends and relatives, who are LGBT, I found several revelations in these conversations about workplace issues and subtle discriminations that had rarely been brought up by my friends and relatives during our “normal” conversations. Read more »
I am in Paradise. I was officially welcomed to Paradise as soon as I got off my plane in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Actually, I am in a double Paradise considering that I am staying at a beautiful beach resort.
In a day or so this place will get busy with my colleagues who are getting together for the inaugural conference of the International Society for Diversity and Inclusion Professionals. And for a few days we will have passionate conversations about very important topics and rush to swimming pools at the end of the day to cool off and enjoy.
There is one right next to my building. I went there as soon as I dropped my bags in the room. I asked for a towel and got an uncomfortable explanation from a friendly young man at the counter that towels were only for red-level guests.
Red-level guests? It took a moment to compute.
A few minutes prior when I was checking in at the front desk a clerk put a blue bracelet on my wrist. It looks like something you get at the hospital or at the amusement park. This bracelet means that I am a guest at the resort. It means that I belong. I had no problem being marked as a part of the in group.
Now – here I am ready to jump into this enticingly turquoise water and being told that towels that are rightfully mine are at the main pool and that walking there along the beach will take me no time.
I am not “us” anymore. I am now “them” or at least not “us enough”.
That does not feel right. I am about to get all righteous about it but my logical brain starts its boring reasoning with me. Read more »