Cultural differences within communities have become the foundation for society as we know it today. Despite the well-known benefits of a culturally diverse community, stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination are all results of not effectively adapting to others’ differences, whether those be cultural, religious, or political. Therefore, in order to become more accepting of others, we must first learn how to bridge the communicative differences between ourselves and those of other cultures, while at the same time, better understand how to adapt to the diversity that influences our everyday lives. As a white, middle class woman, I am already extremely privileged. I am able-bodied and almost never have to worry about money, since I have a trust fund that will take care of almost all of my needs.
Although I am not religious, the majority of my relatives are, and I sometimes feel alone for not being more like them, but I have never felt oppressed because of my lack of personal beliefs. I am also very liberal, unlike the rest of my family, but I believe that most of my political views have been shaped by my education and the people I have chosen to surround myself with throughout my life, so I do not feel regretful for having politically differing views from those of my family members, and I have almost never been made to feel bad for my political opinions in academic or social settings. On the other hand, I identify as bisexual, which has caused me to feel embarrassed or ashamed of myself on numerous occasions. Despite all of this, my positionality allows me to be more open-minded and accepting towards others, even if I am not able to fully understand the experiences and struggles they have encountered throughout their lives.
After the activity in class, in which we all spoke out about hurtful assumptions others had made of us in the past, I felt less alone in the world and also became more aware of the prejudice that is still present in our society today. A majority of my classmates mentioned stereotypes that had been projected onto them based on their class status, race, or political views, and it was the first time I realized exactly how hurtful generalizing others can be, especially to a child. These projections were a consequence of not properly adapting to others by means of assuming superiority or assuming differences. One of my classmates mentioned that in kindergarten, the other kids in his class wouldn’t play with him because he’s mixed, and they thought that because of his racial background he was “dirty”. His experience opened my eyes to how much of an influence parents have on their children. Kids don’t know any better, but adults do, and it is their responsibility to educate and show their children the significance of cultural competence. Another one of my classmates talked about being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and how this has changed his relationship with his strictly religious parents. His speech made me feel both empathic and also gave me a sense of belonging, because although I have not told my parents about my sexual orientation, I still feel isolated around them sometimes. Overall, the exposure to these events made me self-reflect on how I communicate with others. I now recognize that I tend to assume similarity when speaking to others. This can be detrimental to my relationships because not everyone is familiar with the same things as me, and by putting others in a position where I convey the impression that they have to relate to me can make them feel uncomfortable or alienated.
The experiences that my classmates shared exhibit the importance of adapting to others so that we may become better communicators and people. In order to achieve this goal, we must first become motivated and curious to communicate with people of other cultures simply to learn more about them and ourselves. This motivation creates a foundation from which we are able to develop skills and knowledge that will guide us on the path to becoming more culturally understanding. Once we communicate with others, we must form accurate perceptions. This can be done by becoming more verbally and nonverbally aware of how we communicate with others and how they respond to us. We can also both directly and indirectly check our perceptions by either asking others if our interpretations are correct, or by using our own perceptual abilities to either confirm or refute our interpretations of someone’s behavior. Another way to form accurate perceptions of others is to avoid stereotypes as a way to evaluate others as individuals. After these skills are acquired, we are capable of successfully communicating and adapting to those of other cultures.
Overall, the experiences that my classmates mentioned provided me with a stronger sense of the importance of mindfulness and adapting to others. We live in a country that is extremely culturally diverse, so it is critical that we learn how to properly bridge communicative differences so that we may communicate effectively and ethically, while at the same time becoming other-oriented in the relationships that we have already or have yet to establish.