Grace or a Disgrace at the Holiday Party

Gratitude Organizational culture Respect


Key Point: What would you do? Your company is having a holiday party and you have been asked to say “grace” five minutes before dinner in front of several hundred people. You step up to the microphone and…

Dr. Peter Adler is quoted saying, “the multi-cultural person is someone who is intellectually and emotionally committed to the fundamental unity of all human beings while at the same time recognizes, legitimizes, accepts and appreciates the fundamental differences that lie between people of different cultures.”

A great piece of well-researched work on multiculturalism, The Intercultural Development Continuum, identifies one’s capability to accurately understand and adapt to cultural difference and commonality. The Continuum shows progression from a mono-cultural mind set to an inter-cultural mindset. The journey along The Continuum includes denial, polarization, minimization, acceptance and adaption. After hundreds of thousands of survey results, Canadians and Americans are on average at the minimization stage. In this stage, there is somewhat of a declared orientation that highlights cultural commonality and universal values, but it also masks the ability to achieve deeper recognition and appreciation of cultural differences. In some ways, this is a limitation to the thought that, “people are just people,” and essentially the same.

Adaptation, the highest level of orientation, is the capability to shift perspective and change behavior in culturally appropriate and authentic ways. This does not mean giving up on one’s heritage or beliefs, but having the authentic ability to adapt, bridge, and really see matters through the eyes of others versus accepting the differences of others through your own eyes. It takes INTENTION and PRACTICE to develop into the adaptive orientation. Most people think they are further along The Continuum than they really are.

Back to the “grace” request above… A lot of people, not very far along the cultural competence journey, might think or say… “This is a Christian country. Instead of a Holiday Party, lets call it a Christmas party… The Lord’s Prayer would the appropriate ‘grace.’” I wonder how the employees who are Jews, Muslim, Hindu, etc. in attendance might feel about this perspective?

Character Moves:

  1. Emotional Intelligence is based on excellent self-awareness of oneself and compassion towards others. Spiritual Intelligence, based on the wonderful work of Cindy Wigglesworth and others, involves deep self-awareness and the ability to authentically bridge and adapt to the varied views. Know where you are on your Intercultural development. Learn more here.
  2. Once you know where you stand on The Continuum, go on an Intercultural “study trip” by participating in the everyday encounters with people from other cultures in more authentic adaptive ways. Put yourself inter-culturally out there and enjoy the growth that travels with you. Go to that ethnic restaurant, view that foreign film and find out what you can learn through the eyes of others.
  3. Remember that being inter-culturally authentic also means applying moral, or ethical judgments of others by better understanding what a cultural practice represents in a different community. The ability to be inter-culturally component is another important step in the respect continuum of The Character Triangle.

Inter-culturally competent in The Triangle,