You have probably been in a situation in a foreign country or with foreign visitors in which you truly did not understand what was going on or wished you knew how to act. This is not just a matter of communication or etiquette, but a question of being able to use “your senses to register all the ways in which the personalities interacting in front of you are different from those in your home culture yet similar to one another”, as professors Earley and Mosakowski describe it for the Harvard Business Review .
That means that if you are culturally intelligent, you will have a natural ability to interpret “someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures in just the way that person’s compatriots and colleagues would, even to mirror them”. This refers not only to national boundaries, but also to other type of cultural boundaries, such as for example regional or professional, for instance the communication problems many of us experience when dealing with co-workers from different departments within the same company.
If you remember our post about multiple intelligences you might find a link between this and emotional intelligence, but they explain that this type of intelligence enables people to distinguish between features that might be true for all people and all groups from those that are particular to a given person or group in relation to others, and even those features that are neither universal nor idiosyncratic to a single person.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to put your cultural intelligence to the test? Do you think you have a high CQ?
This is a good example of how difficult it can be to deal with a different culture: The British are so polite that sarcasm or contempt many times go unnoticed for non-native speakers. Here is your ultimate guide to understand what they actually mean: