Module 3: Developing Your Intercultural Skills

Understanding Your Own Intercultural Competence 

Developing intercultural competence requires a shift in the way you think and approach people around you. This can be challenging because you need to develop an awareness of your own and other cultures and recognize the impact of culture and values in interactions while making the best of opportunities to engage with others. As you do this, you will find yourself having to change some attitudes that perhaps were not evident to you. You need to focus on deconstructing biases and stereotypes, being aware of microaggressions, being mindful about the value of people’s perspectives, and adapting to situations based on knowledge and experiences. Developing intercultural competence is not something you do for a while or something you achieve within a couple of months; it is a process whereby you continuously learn about yourself, the world, its people, the implications of ways to engage, and the unfairness of ignoring or racializing others.

As you focus on developing your skills, consider Broadwell’s Conscious Competence Learning Model (in Davis & Francis, 2021) to help you reflect on what you are learning, concentrate your efforts on developing skills more efficiently, and learn to recognize your progress. As you explore the various stages of the model, think about examples from your life where you have been at one stage or another.

Activity: Understanding (Un)conscious (In)competence

In the context of intercultural competence development, the four stages of this model are as follows, but they are not listed in the right order. Insert the stage that corresponds with the description provided. [Text adapted from Krumrey-Fulks, 2021]

Taking time to understand how and what you are doing to develop awareness, knowledge, and skills is an important part of your intercultural development. To put this in the context of your own experience, check out this Cultural Competence Self-Assessment Checklist (PDF).  This activity is not a test, and it does not measure intercultural competence. However, answering questions of this type will help you understand what you are doing and can help you guide your efforts towards developing intercultural competence. Follow the instructions on the tool to complete the assessment and obtain your score.

Think About This

  • Identify the areas in the self-assessment tool where you scored less, why do you think that is? What seems to be something you are not doing? What do you think you can do to improve those areas?
  • Then, concentrate on the areas where you scored high, what are you doing that helped you obtain that score? What can you do to continue developing those areas?

Takeaway Points

  • Being aware of what you are doing when interacting with cultural others can help you identify ways to improve areas associated with awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and skills.
  • By identifying what you do not know (i.e., your limitations, and where you feel more comfortable and confident) allows you to be more intentional about your everyday interactions, the decisions you make, your reactions, and the potential consequences of your actions.

Try These Strategies

  • Go back to your answers in the self-assessment tool. Select one or two areas and identify ways to develop them. Ask yourself: How can I be more…? How can I make sure I…? What can I do to…?
  • Select any one of the areas in the self-assessment tool and use it as a conversation point with a friend from your same or different cultural background: What can you learn from each other? How are they approaching…? How do they understand…?
  • Make a list of the things you feel you need to learn more about and find ways to expand your knowledge. Think about possible sources and reach out to them, whether at the university, at work, or within your community.