Cultural Intelligence

Why You Need Cultural Intelligence

by Daniel Botros

Diversity has been a great point of contention over the last few years. Whether it be the issues of immigration or xenaphobia, there is no denying that this topic is heavily prevalent in today’s society. The study of languages is intrinsically linked with this topic of diversity. The beauty of languages is obvious to many people. It is not only used to communicate values, beliefs, and customs from generation to generation, but also to foster relationships with others and truly form a community. That being said, many still perceive a diverse range of languages as a weakness and a barrier to overcome. We know that this is obviously not the case, and more and more information is coming out to support this. 

For instance, the idea of cultural intelligence, or CQ, has become a subject of broad and current interest. CQ is defined as the ability to work effectively across cultures in various settings such as government, education, and business. Just like EQ and IQ, nowadays, CQ is highly valued in the workplace. Employees who possess a high level of CQ are crucial assets as they can educate their peers about different cultures and transfer knowledge between otherwise distant groups. This aid in building interpersonal connections between various cultures is essential to the efficacy of a workforce.

CQ has three major components. The first of these is cultural knowledge. Cultural knowledge is defined as knowledge of other cultures and the ability to process said knowledge. Similar to EQ and IQ, CQ can be thought of as a muscle, or something that can be strengthened. You can gain cultural knowledge through books, movies, newspapers, travelling, or interacting with people from a different culture. However, when going through this learning experience, it is critical that you stay mindful and attentive during the process. 

The second component of CQ is cross-cultural skills. Cross-cultural skills are essentially a set of skills that are used for intercultural interactions. These interactions include relating to one another, adapting one’s behaviour to the surrounding culture, tolerating uncertainties in a foreign culture, and empathizing with another’s cultural situation. Similar to cultural knowledge, cross-cultural skills can be honed through experiential learning, which often entails working or studying in a foreign culture. That being said, it is important to recognize that one must first be equipped with cultural knowledge before attempting to develop cross-cultural skills. This knowledge of a different culture will allow you to be flexible and adaptive, ultimately enabling your mind to engage with the culture rather than resisting it.

The third and last component of CQ is cultural metacognition. It is known as the knowledge of and control over one’s thinking and learning activities in the domain of cultural experiences. This essentially describes one’s tendency to be aware of different cultural contexts, constantly analyzing the interactive situations, and planning courses of action for the future. In order to develop this skill, you must continuously analyze and reflect on the situational context as well as personal behaviour of people in various cultural settings. Again, this learning experience will be optimized if you have a foundation of cultural knowledge and cross-cultural skills.

Rather than just being able to integrate people from different cultures, people with a high level of cultural intelligence have also been found to be more creative and collaborative. This is likely because they have a strong ability to analyze and apply knowledge from their daily environment as well as interact with people, regardless of their differences. Overall, one of our many goals at WLO is to develop an appreciation for this idea of cultural intelligence. In doing this, we will collectively be taking a step towards combatting this idea that diversity is a weakness, but rather promoting it as a strength.

References Why you need cultural intelligence and how to develop it