“Diversity Training Doesn’t Work!”

“Diversity Training Doesn’t Work: Rather than extinguish prejudice, diversity training promotes it!” This was the title of a 12 March 2012 Psychology Today online article.

While so many of us complain about media sensationalism, I begrudgingly have to admit that, in this case, the inflammatory title led me to read this article from among the 200+ crossing my desk that day.

The article’s author, Peter Bregman, relies on research from 2007 to prove his point. He repeats or paraphrases the subtitle four times throughout his article, each time stating it as fact. Yet, in reviewing the original research he cites, I feel it does not support his premise. The original paper is much more nuanced and even-handed (“certain programs increase diversity in management jobs but others do little or nothing”).

While I take issue with much of what Mr. Bregman says in his article (that there are two types of diversity training, for example: those that tell people what to say/not say, and those that break people into categories. Come on, really?), there is also learning to be gained from it. His conclusion: “We decided to [teach all managers] to listen and speak with each other — no matter the difference — which is the key to creating a vibrant and inclusive environment,” was one I could heartily agree with.

Let me focus this post on the constructive learning we might get from this article. Mr. Bregman urges the reader to do nine different things. I consolidate them, as there was quite a bit of redundancy. They are:
  1. See people as people instead of categories. Train them to work with a diversity of individuals, not with a diversity of categories. Move beyond similarity and diversity to individuality. Don’t reinforce labels, which only serve to stereotype. Reveal singularities. Help them resist the urge to think about people as categories.
    • I wholeheartedly agree! Yes!!! Please! That is exactly why Cultural Detective looks at an interactional process of how people communicate in real situations (using the Worksheet with real-life or prepared critical incidents).
    • It is why we have a package titled, Cultural Detective: Self Discovery, aiding users to create Personal Values Lenses.
    • It is why Cultural Detective: Blended Culture looks at the multicultural experience of so many of the individuals in our world today.
    • It is why our definitions of “culture” go way beyond nationality or ethnicity, and include looking at multiple influences on why we are the way we are (see Layering Lenses).
    • While we are all unique individuals, we are also all members of groups and communities, and our world views are shaped by those groups (cultures) in which we were raised. Cultures establish patterns of behavior that are historically sanctioned, so we each learn all kinds of things that seem natural, yet are culturally determined. Viewing people as unique individuals not influenced by culture is a step backwards, and not helpful in understanding others.
  2. Stop training people to be “accepting” because it doesn’t work.
    • Again I agree! If people can better understand themselves, and get a bit of insight into why others might behave the way they do, we won’t need to lecture them. These are two of the Cultural Detective Model’s three core capacities (Subjective Culture/know ourselves, Cultural Literacy/understand others’ intent, Cultural Bridge/skills and systems for leveraging similarities and differences).
  3. Teach people to have difficult conversations with a range of individuals.
    • Yes! The CD Worksheet came to life as a conflict resolution tool in multicultural workplaces in Japan in the 1980s and 90s. It emerged from diverse individuals having just such difficult conversations.
  4. Teach managers how to manage the variety of employees who report to them. Teach them how to develop the skills of their various employees.
    • While I might offer this as one reason to conduct diversity training, coaching, or mentoring, I can definitely agree with the goal. Cultural Detective offers a process for understanding, valuing and leveraging individual cultural differences. Our newest package, Cultural Detective Bridging Cultures, focuses precisely on skill development.
  5. Help them resist the urge to think about others as just like themselves.
    • Yes! Thinking about others as just like ourselves is one stage of a developmental process. Learning to distinguish the ways in which we truly are similar and different, seeing value in the similarities and the differences, and creating ways to benefit from them, is what Cultural Detective is all about.

The initial research referenced in the article, (“Diversity Management in Corporate America,” Frank Dobbin, Alexandra Kalev, and Erin Kelly, American Sociological Association, 2007), was a systemic study of 829 companies, designed to see which kinds of diversity programs work best, on average. A weakness in the original study is that it looked purely at diversity, not on inclusion or competence to manage diversity.

Having said that, the findings showed that diversity councils, diversity leaders, and mentoring programs most strongly correlate with increased management diversity, while training and diversity performance evaluations have a lower correlation. To quote the study authors, “On average, programs designed to reduce bias among managers responsible for hiring and promotion have not worked. Neither diversity training to extinguish stereotypes, nor diversity performance evaluations to provide feedback and oversight to people making hiring and promotion decisions, have accomplished much. This is not surprising in the light of research showing that stereotypes are difficult to extinguish. … Research shows that educating people about members of other groups may reduce stereotyping.”

“Optional (not mandatory) training programs and those that focus on cultural awareness (not the threat of the law) can have positive effects. In firms where training is mandatory or emphasizes the threat of lawsuits, training actually has negative effects on management diversity. Managers respond negatively when they feel that someone is pointing a finger at them.”

The original article by Dobbin, Kaley, and Kelley presents three broad approaches to increasing diversity:
  • Changing the attitudes and behaviors of managers
  • Improving the social ties of women and minorities
  • Assigning responsibility for diversity to special managers and task forces

These are all situations in which the Cultural Detective Model can be used to help shape constructive interactions and manage differences effectively.

What do you think?

17 thoughts on ““Diversity Training Doesn’t Work!”

  1. I agree with this being a US perspective. I think that there are a couple of things – one would be that I don’t believe we can change attitudes. I think as an organization behavior can be mandated but attitudes have to change by the person, another can’t change attitudes for them. The second, and my guess from what I’ve seen is that Cultural Detective does this well, is that we need to go beyond diversity to cultural competency. At heart, diversity training is valuing difference but it often doesn’t go far enough and give people tools to negotiate difference, tools to communicate across difference, concrete steps and exercises of understanding oneself better so that we are aware when someone does something that conflicts with our cultural values and we can communicate within and beyond that. So much more to say but the comment is long enough!


  2. Here’s an interesting study about the success of diversity in the workforce and leadership in European business: http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture_Outlook_Vive_la_difference_Talent_management.pdf. Clearly, diversity is good for business, as this study shows a clear financial payoff by finding a statistical correlation between European companies’ capital markets success and the gender diversity and international diversity of executive boards. Once your organization has the diversity in the workforce and leadership, I doubt there is an automatic payoff. Instincts say there still exists the need to develop the people and teach them how to competently work effectively in a diverse environment. As the study also states, “Many of those seeking to embrace diversity in their top management teams struggle to overcome the frictions that opposing points of view and perspectives can create.”


  3. Thank you, Marilyn. I think you summarize the objectives very well: “We need to go beyond diversity to cultural competency. At heart, diversity training is valuing difference but it often doesn’t go far enough and give people tools to negotiate difference, tools to communicate across difference, concrete steps and exercises of understanding oneself better so that we are aware when someone does something that conflicts with our cultural values and we can communicate within and beyond that.” Competency empowers.

    Kris, thank you for this link. I’m sure people who have not read the study will also find it quite interesting. Thank goodness there are more and more consulting and polling firms, as well as researchers, conducting studies on diversity and inclusion, in order to inform our practice. There is such a wealth of info available now that we didn’t have in past decades, when many of our practices were formed. It’s wise for us to now revisit practice in light of new learnings, see where we’re doing well and where we’re not, and transform the practice.

    I am glad to hear, Marilyn, that you think Cultural Detective does this so well. I of course agree, and I am especially excited about the rapid competence achievable with what we are calling the “MashUp” of CD and Personal Leadership. I’ll try to do a future blog post about this, but in the meantime there is more information at http://culturaldetective.com/services#MASH (link through to an article on the subject).


    • I totally agree with the point made above, “We need to go beyond diversity to cultural competency.” Additionally, I appreciate the link to the article. Thank you, Kris. That study shows data collected in Europe, and makes the good point that diversity practitioners do not make often enough, that there is still a lot of resistance to diversity in US-American workplaces. On both the receiving and the delivery sides of diversity here, most people still do not accept diversity as a “cultural competency” concept. Diversity is still often perceived a Civil Rights or Affirmative Action issue. In a diverse organization, Minority consider Diversity training as an opportunity to claim from the majority what they have been deprived of for so long sometimes going back centuries ago. On the Majority side, Diversity still appears as an opportunity to blame them for what they have (or have not) done.


      • I agree Emmanuel. And I think you’re last points are so well made. I recently became a senior diversity trainer for the state where I work. My frustration with the training was that it felt like we all brought up this “stuff” but were given no tools to deal with the “stuff”.


  4. For a long time I have observed a two flod paralysis that occurs in diversity training sessions in the US; paralysis from guilt of the dominant groups (race, gender, sexual orientation , religion etc.) and paralysis from anger within the oppressed groups. This led me to seek another way of helping people learn about their differences and to see the major role culture plays in how we shape and view our world. In the US many people want take away phrases and politically correct terminologies to use or stay away from instead of developing an understanding of cultural patterns and communication styles and skills to navigate the difficult interactions that result when different cultures meet. The Cultural Detective is a very valuable tool for teaching people how to navigate these differences by assuming positive intent.


  5. How to deal with diversity?
    – Show negative stereotyping, mistrust, and as a result, poor performance = Destroyers
    – Overlook or suppress differences = Equalizers
    – Accept, nurture and leverage differences to get high performance = Creators

    J.J.DiStefano and M.L. Maznevski, 2000

    As regards the article, I think this is the difference between one common form of US diversity training focused mainly on the domestic situation and intercultural training. It is not just a question of different mental models, we are often talking about things that are substantively different.


  6. Tim, thank you for the DiStefano and Maznevski reference and summary. It is sooo important to keep in mind. Different approaches achieve different purposes and can be developmental in nature. If we want to create and transform, we need to leverage similarities and differences, not suppress them. Our challenge as intercultural professionals is to reinforce context-specific, interactional approaches that value individuals in the contexts of their multiple cultures and experiences. The responses here are a powerful testament to the potential power of diversity.


  7. Research needs to be done from a US American perspective separately, because of the fundamental differences with other countries and continents – what I mean particularly is the indoctrinated beliefs inherent in the United States because of terms that have been adopted. Although I agree with much that has been said here; and certainly the input that one can look at how things are done elsewhere in the world – I have just thoroughly read the link Kris Bibler posted – drawing comparisons by critisizing the United States for lacking the ‘European’ approach, as it appears is insinuated, is preposterous, as European race-relations are at an ever continuing low throughout most of the continent; and faith-relations have hit rock-bottom as well.

    I have found one error I would like to correct:
    “All four Scandinavian nations are represented on the executive board of Sweden’s Nordea,”
    Skandinavian Nations count eight.


  8. Here I will paste a thread from our LinkedIn group, in response to this blog post, in order to continue and to record the thread:

    Julia Taleisnik • Dear Dianne, I read the PT article some days ago and i found it quite interesting because I think that diversity training actually works. The article you wrote is very good too, and I agree in a lot of things. Mainly in the fact that accepting diversity and differences is a developmental process, which starts by knowing oneself. Only then it’s possible to have a different approach to diversity and different cultures.
    What the author of the PT article affirms is just a part of diversity training. Because we DO train on communication, stereotypes, individuality, etc. What the author call “labels” is what other calls “generalizations”. Denying generalizations is denying diversity, because even if we’re all different, it’s a fact that there are some dimensions/behaviour/values that tend to be similar to groups of people/cultures. That’s not labeling, on the contrary, that’s understanding that people are different. That’s understanding that culture actually exists and a group of people sharing values have their own personal identity and their own cultural identity. Personal identity and cultural identity exist in the same person.

    I would like to read some more opinions!
    Great topic Dianne! 🙂

    Dianne Hofner Saphiere • SUCH good points, Julia. Gracias!!! I do think we need to stand up and be heard on articles like these. What I wonder about is if we need to use sensationalism to get attention, too? Seems so dirty and dishonest to me, and yet… Like you, am looking forward to hearing more comments from everyone!

    Emerald Nijdam • Dear Dianne and Julia,
    on this topic I have so many things to say, I do not know where to begin.

    I agree fully with Julia’s statement: ‘Denying generalizations is denying diversity, because even if we’re all different, it’s a fact that there are some dimensions/behaviour/values that tend to be similar to groups of people/cultures.’ and have rarely heard this said so eloquently. What is striking to me though, is how this would apply to how I am treated at times. I think diversity training is necessary, though perhaps its methods can be improved upon, as it occurs to me that much of diversity training – from my perspective at least – assumes stereotypes.
    Diversity training starts with the individual: if a person is so closed-minded they do not want to change their behaviours, nothing much changes; and they need much more than an understanding there are other cultures which need acceptance: they do need the openness to accept an individual for who they are, regardless.
    I have seen it take an act of God though – somebody receives such a startling revelation it changes their ways.

    I do not want to sound negative, but I can speak from personal experience, and it is the negative at stake: we are not trying to change world-citizens here. If you would like to read more about who I am, I wrote an introduction some time ago – which Natalia Sarro commented on – and it will make some things clear, as perhaps I need not elaborate too much on who I am here.
    Especially in the United States, where I currently reside, it often seems acceptance of diversity does not apply to me, and at times people at first assume I fit into their pre-conceived box. I am a six-foot tall, pale-skinned blonde, and if there is even so much as a hint of some ‘oddity’, I am immediately outcast, and complaints fall on deaf ears as, after all, I am ‘white-blonde&tall’ and can not possibly have any such problems. The fact is, I run into ever more problems with exactly such narrow-minded people, and most of the time there is not much I can do about it. Any ethnically derogatory comments freely get thrown at my head, whether they apply to me or others does not matter. I have had people even say to me I can not possibly associate with such and such culture, as I am ‘white’ (I never identify myself as such, as I do not agree with the skin-colour label).

    Just because certain cultures share values, it does not necessarily have to be the same for all. I will elaborate: I grew up around people from all over the world, and can not possibly be pinned down to one culture, let alone the one I was born into. There are traits I carry from my native Skandinavian culture – not Western, another wrong assumption – yet many do not understand these things being Northern; yet much of my cultural behaviour is also Arab,.. Eastern, African, multi-cultural everything and at times it is easier dealing with people from so-called minority groups who’ve never received any diversity training, as most probably sense a kinship even if only being ‘different’, than with those who perhaps have received some type of diversity training and now assume to know how to behave properly toward someone ‘Mexican’, or ‘black’ (more stereotypes, as these are such broad labels, and often, like other such, are reinforced by society).
    I will comment some more, but I will say here that I would like to see more openness to cultural diversity keeping in mind that someone’s personal identity and cultural identity are not always together in a person the way one would ‘assume’. Mine certainly are not.

    Dianne Hofner Saphiere • Wow, Emerald, I am soooo sorry you are having that experience in the US. And, I can totally imagine it and empathize. It is definitely good learning for how to and how not to deal with diversity! It is so key that we all keep forward in our minds that we have multiple stories: we are mothers and sisters and cousins and teachers and business people, spiritual beings with a gender and a generation, with lived experience in multiple national cultures…. this also might be interesting? https://blog.culturaldetective.com/2012/03/19/layering-lenses/

    Thank you both for this interesting discussion!

    Julia Taleisnik • Emerald, I understand what you say. And I think it is so interesting. Maybe the problem IS that diversity trainings should be done in a different way as you say and I fully agree on that. The topics in diversity training are so deep and have to do so much with competences and behaviors that cannot be changed from one day to the next one. It takes a long way for people to accept diversity and even longer to learn how to deal with diversity and mainly, how to deal with wrong information that they may have been receiving forever.
    Those people you meet are in the first stage of the topic: diversity awareness, understanding diversity and dealing with their own ideas of what it means to be black/white/tall/scandinavian…

    Diversity training is a process that starts at home when kids are raised and educted and it starts with parents and early education, no doubt about it.

    I have a lot of examples of my own experience too.

    I think you can do a lot of “diversity training” yourself, and that is helping people around you to start understanding diversity when they have those wrong assumptions about you. That’s something you can do everyday.

    Emerald Nijdam • Dianne, I love your cultural detective!

    Let me start by saying I don’t judge people; just as often people will point the finger at someone and say that person is a bigot, because of a certain trait they (!) carry. The United States has great examples with its logical diversity because of its history, and its prominent position on the world stage.
    I have lived and stayed in a dozen or so States, and what I can tell you is from years of personal experience. One can just as soon meet someone from a small town in the South, who speaks only their dialect of English, has never left the small-town region they live in, has rarely been exposed to other cultures, who would not consider treating anyone with disrespect regardless of skin colour or religious persuasion, and yes, usually they have been raised to treat all people with respect; as well one can just as soon meet a person in a large metropolitan city, who is surrounded by numerous races/ cultures/ religions, who is the most rigid judgmental character one could ever meet. And because our subject here is diversity training – usually related to employment right? – I am afraid that sometimes it is looked at in a wrong way the other way around. Who needs diversity training? The person who is rigid; not necessarily the person who is from a small town in Texas, has a certain skin-colour themselves, and speaks with a twang.

    I have personally had to speak up and defend myself because of the way I had been treated by someone – sometimes in an employment situation – and it has fallen on deaf ears often if the person in question had a certain ‘background’ themselves; no diversity training for them because it was not understood as bigotry on their part, also because of my (!) looks.
    To me this is a huge issue – if the world is going to be changed for the better, it first needs to expose and admit to its completely wrong perceptions.

    And Julia, you are so right: I myself do ‘diversity training’ everyday, and much has had positive results, although a few times I have – literally – found myself talking to a wall. Some people are so stuck they can not deal with anything outside of their own little world. Not all the ‘diversity training’ I do is to change wrong assumptions about myself though; when I encounter wrong assumptions about others – Africans, Arabs, Muslims, Hindus, Central and South Americans – I can just as much speak up, and because of my very broad multi-cultural life, fortunately I can speak from personal experiences.

    Dianne Hofner Saphiere • You ladies are melting my heart! With people and professionals like you in this world, we indeed have hope! Mil, millón de gracias por sus esfuerzos!!!!!!

    Nicole Knock.M.Ed.Sp.Ed;M.Ed.St.Asia • The last comment of your article is the most potent. “We need to work together to generate unique, distinctive and innovative responses to the new global work scenarios by capitalizing on everyone’s inherent strengths, demonstrating a willingness to learn, reflecting from our own experience, and accepting the fact that tension and conflict are inevitable in a context of globalisation.”
    Diversity is a strength within itself and unfortunately it is often seen that differences has negative connotations. I have never understood why. Our experiences influence our behaviours and thus some will not see the value in diversity training. For me I try to work on this every day.
    Born in Australia and living there for 30+years, I now live and work in Vietnam. Its a world away in many respects. My main disappointment has come when I see many westerners trying to impose their methods, values and ways onto the local people. I also see the local people trying to find those magic potions from the westerners too.

    Our behaviours, methods, ways of living, education etc all need to be considered contextually. Teaching children about diversity is tricky because the teachers (mine included) and parents biases already ‘cloud’ the way they present certain information to the child.
    I feel there are many assumptions about race, gender, personality, behaviour and the generalisations come from the past experiences and the daily occurences within the society one lives. This is not necessairly a bad thing. But it should make one stop and think about their treatment of others and for them to reflect on the daily experiences. It starts from the moment you wake up in the morning.
    I also feel that many do not consider the reasons behind peoples behaviours and yet when one takes some time to talk to them and get to know them, then you change your mind about someone. We can’t do this for every person we meet.
    Bring on Diversity training but do it in such a way that different perspectives are provided for people to then make their own choices about people and perceptions. We could start with the media!!
    Thankyou for the valuable discussion.

    Skip Pettit • Colleagues–what a rich and insightful dialogue. I have enjoyed following it. I too reside in the US at this stage of my life, but have lived abroad as an adult and as a child, and have experienced culture shock first-hand when entering a foreign culture and then returning to the US. The most profound was when I returned to the US after living in Germany for an extended tour of 8 years.

    There are good people everywhere — with open minds and hearts — who embrace differences and assume you are OK until you show them you are not. The trick is to find them! Others, however, are narrow minded and frightened of things outside of their experience–whatever that may be–people, food, language, dress, customs, education, race, gender, personality, sexuality, etc.

    Generally, I have found the positive, uplifting people no matter where I’ve gone. I am a musician among other things, so often music was the bridge — irrespective of our varying commonalities or differences. The common middle ground was — DO you play? What do you play? How well do you play/sing? So, let’s jam!!!

    I still travel abroad to Europe and Africa every few years. Sometimes to Canada, too. I haven’t been to Korea or Japan in 20+ years but I have been to Peurto Rico and Hawaii more recently. Each place is unique and special. In Africa it is the work that joins us together. Working side-by-side with Africans and others from across the world to build a school or a hospital, allows in some small way, to make a difference, and build new bridges between cultures. Music, too, is a bridge as we sing African songs together.

    Diversity training is important and I believe in it, but it becomes impotent if it doesn’t ultimately facilitate inclusion. My efforts these days are on training in Diversity AND Inclusion, Bullying & Bias. I believe these are all related, and enlightenments in one area, hopefully, carry to another.

    Best to you. I look forward to hearing more from you all. Thanks for sharing.


    Joy H • Congratulations Nicole! I have the same feelings as you have. You have the best comment I have ever seen. I am from China and live in Australia for more than 15 years. I know what you are talking about. I sometimes also found how ridiculous some Chinese people tell me their comment on Australian culture after they traveled here and did so called research in few weeks. Culture is not something you can comment if you are outside of it. Just like men can never tell people how does it feel to give birth to a baby.

    Emerald Nijdam • @Skip, I so agree with you – that is exactly what I have always experienced everywhere; good people are anywhere in the world, and all one needs to do is find them. They are in metropolitan areas and out in rural areas, all over this world.

    Narrow minded people always appear frightened to me, and although I know that is what makes them hostile, I often wonder why. I am a critic of certain media – yet a great supporter of free press, not to be misunderstood here – because it seems a picture is often painted which is deceiving, as many times I notice certain words and terms – often inappropriately – are used to describe people involved in something awful that has happened, and then incessantly repeated; and then when something good is being done it hardly gets reported on through the same channels. Therefore so many people have this idea that people from (..) are all bad. When I deal with such people, in most cases they wil repeat terms they have heard through some type of media, and quite often it is those very terms they are completely stuck on, and they will continuously refer back to them as ‘truth’. I find it the most difficult thing to get rid of doing my own diversity training with people.

    Even people I have encountered who have not had much opportunity to be exposed to different cultures, yet were very open minded and accepting of multiple cultures – races, religions, dress – seemed to have very significant traits in common: they did not view media sources in such ways they would ‘adopt’ terms and apply them to all people of the same backgrounds; they always appear to deal with others on a far more individual basis, seeing the world as a far more ‘diverse’ place in that there are some bad, and many good people to be found anywhere.

    Skip Pettit • Emerald:

    Have always wanted to go to Mauritius–it seems to have figured out how to
    work together for the solidarity and survival of the country, without
    focusing on race and culture — to see each other as “Mauritians” —
    something I think we need more of today. To see each others as Children of
    God or People of the Earth–not them and I or me vs. you.

    Thanks for reaching back–Best to you.


    Olivier Marsily • Diversity training does work!
    Great discussion, thanks for your input.

    Any time I was invited to address diversity with groups of people from sometimes extremely diverse social, intellectual, educational, professional, religious,… backgrounds it has shown a true shared pleasure and success.
    There is a high risk for such training programs to be negatively perceived if we try to “teach” people and come up with “ready to use” solution. I simply don’t believe in such approach.
    Instead, addressing one’s “differentness” through daily experimentation and personal & group thinking, leads people to freely challenge their own perceptions and values-systems This has always shown highly productive and satisfactory.
    The difference in methodological approach generates personal motivation among the participants. Because people are motivated they decide themselves to start looking at things in a different way, listening at others in a non-judgmental way, opening themselves to alternative values-systems which ultimately they may find equally interesting to theirs, and why not integrate.

    Personal experience made me develop the following approach to differences, whether related to diversity or cross cultural realities: Accept any perception as a fact. (who am I to say that someone’s perception is right or wrong?) Yet, dare questioning perceptions (mine and other’s) because it is the only way to gain deeper understanding.

    WHY and HOW are the two most used questions for me since answering the first creates awareness and answering the second enables the acceptance-integration process to take place.

    Just a nice moment to share with you all through this debate… it made me reflect on things I still have to work on myself.


  9. And more:
    Natalia Pérez de Herrasti • Hello to you all,

    Emerald it would take long to explain all the thoughts that come into my mind reading your post. I know what you mean.

    One sentence that you take from Julia strikes me as fundamental:’Denying generalizations is denying diversity, because even if we’re all different, it’s a fact that there are some dimensions/behaviour/values that tend to be similar to groups of people/cultures.’

    I would like to copy here a list that Alan Cornes has published and I continued in a thread months ago:

    Harmful stereotypes

    They are retained unconsciously.
    They are judgmental, not descriptive.
    They maybe accurate but are often not.
    They are the only consideration.
    They are not modified by experience.

    Useful generalizations

    They are retained consciously.
    They are descriptive not judgmental.
    They are accurate.
    They are considered a best first guess.
    They are modified by subsequent

    My addition to Alan´s list:

    Harmful stereotypes:

    • Their aim is dividing, separating people between “them” and “us”.
    • They are a result of irritation because our implicit values, those we cannot explain and we have learned unconsciously without ever questioning them, are being challenged.
    • They do not consider individual and intracultural differences.
    • They arise from the belief that culture is a barrier that we cannot overcome.
    • They are a result of few superficial observations or even no direct experience at all.
    • They hide the intention of making the other culture accept my standards because they are better. (Etnocentrism)

    Useful generalizations

    • Their aim is joining people by making their views and behaviour understandable to others.
    • They are a result of a deeper understanding of implicit values hidden behind explicit facts (our own values and the values of other cultures as both are unknown to us)
    • They are a result of vast empirical observation scientifically analyzed and confirmed by many authors.
    • They take it for granted that there are generational, regional and other individual differences, and generalization is only a first step for the understanding of the other culture. After it we must learn more intracultural nuances and details. And we must always meet every individual as a unique blend who occupies a unique position in many continuums of many polarities which can collide. What might seem as a contradiction at first might be the consequence of another standard that, on this point, has the priority. But we also know that the intracultural differences are usually of a smaller grade and do not lead to such a big disorientation as the intercultural ones.
    • They arise from the belief that cultures are complementary and together we can achieve a sinergy that avoids both pathological excesses.
    • They describe both poles of the standard clear and openly so both positions can meet in the middle or find ways of consense and reconciliation. (Integration, biculturality)

    Emerald Nijdam • Thank you Natalia for your comments; what a great list. So very true.

    I love different cultures, and although we need to understand each other better in this world, people ought not need to ‘conform’ to another culture – there are some terms used for that too – as I believe differences are so exciting and make life so interesting. Some of the most ridiculous suggestions I hear are on dress: “do not wear that hijab, as you are in the west now”; “exchange that sari for some ‘regular’ clothes”.

    Once people follow Natalia’s list of ‘useful generalizations’, which is what I do, they learn – and know (!) – how delightful life can be for interesting conversations and wonderful friendships with people from all over the world.


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