Cultural sensitivity (terms)

During the cultural sensitivity classes today I learned 2 new concepts.

  1. ETHNOCENTRISM vs ETHNORELATIVISM
  2. Monochronic vs Polychronic

Monochronic time: Time is the given and people are the variable. The needs of people are adjusted to suit the demands of time – schedules, deadlines, etc. Time is quantifiable, and a limited amount of it is available. People do one thing at a time and finish it before starting something else, regardless of circumstances.

Polychronic time: Time is the servant and tool of people. Time is adjusted to suit the needs of people. More time is always available, and you are never too busy. People often have to do several things simultaneously, as required by circumstances. It is not necessary to finish one thing before starting another, nor is it necessary to finish your business with one person before starting with another.(1)

To summarize, in monochronic societies people work around schedules, whereas in polychronic societies, schedules are worked around people.

Ethnocentrism: A simple way to conceive of the three stages of ethnocentrism is in terms of attitudes toward cultural differences: those in the denial stage deny the existence of cultural differences, those in the defense stage demonize them, and those in the minimization stage trivialize differences.

Denial: People in the denial stage do not recognize the existence of cultural differences. They are completely ethnocentric in that they believe there is a correct type of living (theirs), and that those who behave differently simply don’t know any better. In this phase, people are prone to imposing their value system upon others, believing that they are “right” and that others who are different are “confused.” They are not threatened by cultural differences because they refuse to accept them. Generally, those who experience cultural denial have not had extensive contact with people different from themselves, and thus have no experiential basis for believing in other cultures.  A key indicator of the denial stage is the belief that you know better than the locals.

Defense: Those in the defense stage are no longer blissfully ignorant of other cultures; they recognize the existence of other cultures, but not their validity. They feel threatened by the presence of other ways of thinking, and thus denigrate them in an effort to assert the superiority of their own culture. Cultural differences are seen as problems to be overcome, and there is a dualistic “us vs. them” mentality. Whereas those in the denial stage are unthreatened by the presence of other cultural value systems (they don’t believe in them, after all), those in the defense stage do feel threatened by “competing” cultures. People in the defense stage tend to surround themselves with members of their own culture, and avoid contact with members from other cultures.

Minimization: People in the minimization stage of ethnocentrism are still threatened by cultural differences and try to minimize them by telling themselves that people are more similar than dissimilar. No longer do they see those from other cultures as being misguided, inferior, or unfortunate. They still have not developed cultural self-awareness and are insistent about getting along with everyone. Because they assume that all cultures are fundamentally similar, people in this stage fail to tailor their approaches to a cultural context.

Ethnorelativism:

Acceptance: In this first stage of ethnorelativism, people begin to recognize other cultures and accept them as viable alternatives to their own worldview. They know that people are genuinely different from them and accept the inevitability of other value systems and behavioral norms. They do not yet adapt their own behavior to the cultural context, but they no longer see other cultures as threatening, wrong, or inferior. People in the acceptance phase can be thought of as “culture-neutral,” seeing differences as neither good nor bad, but rather as a fact of life.

Adaptation: During the adaptation phase, people begin to view cultural differences as a valuable resource. Because differences are seen as positive, people consciously adapt their behaviors to the different cultural norms of their environment.

Integration: Integration is the last stage in one’s journey away from ethnocentrism. In this stage, people accept that their identity is not based in any single culture. Once integrated, people can effortlessly and even unconsciously shift between worldviews and cultural frames of reference. Though they maintain their own cultural identity, they naturally integrate aspects of other cultures into it.

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