“Culture is manifested in shared, unspoken assumptions, values, and beliefs of a group of people resulting in characteristic behavior.” Craig Storti
While there are many popular and academic definitions of culture, I particularly like Craig Storti’s version because it is very flexible and can be applied to any situation where different cultures meet well beyond the realm of international relations. It encompasses subgroups like corporate culture, town culture, team culture, family culture, partnership culture. It thus underlines the importance of context when looking at interactions between different groups.
The unspoken assumptions, unreflected values and beliefs that prompt a person’s behavior, decisions, and interpretations of others are at the heart of many misunderstandings, interpersonal issues, and conflict. Intergenerational conflicts, gender conflicts, mergers and acquisitions issues, just to name some examples, can be only be adequately addressed if the respective unspoken assumptions and differences in values and beliefs are identified, named and placed in relation to each other without judgment. In that respect, an intercultural consultant is not unlike a therapist in that he attempts to uncover hidden relationship dynamics to allow the players to make informed decisions and to be aware of the potential consequences of their actions. The objective is to move beyond a conflict and apply different decision making tools depending on the context of a situation and to nuance one’s behavior based on what we know about ourselves and the other. The ultimate goals is to find enrichment in differences and appreciation for different perspectives without the need to prove one right and one wrong.