In this series of posts, I am introducing how culture relates to the neurological levels that make each and every one of us.
We have seen about your environment and your and others behaviours. These two levels are the external manifestations of culture. The next level we investigated, your capabilities, demonstrates how well or not you understand, adapt and deal with various cultures.
As we go higher up on the pyramid, we begin to touch deeper, hence less obvious, aspects of culture. It is often assumed that those are individual characteristics. Here, I will argue these aspects are also driven by your culture.
The next level I will introduce in this post is about your values and beliefs. Values are what you have come to consider right or wrong. Beliefs are what we hold as true or false, whether it is or not. There is nothing objective in beliefs and values. They are arbitrarily decided. They are, once again, what we have learned and picked up from other people when growing up. We have also come up with some of our own from our experience.
Your beliefs and values will have huge effects on your success in a different culture. Imagine for a moment that one of your values is that your own culture is superior or inferior to others. How do you think it will impact you when you get to a different culture? If you believe you cannot learn a foreign language, how do you think your interactions will fare in a different country?
The good thing about beliefs and values being arbitrary is that we can decide to change them if they are unhelpful, if they impair us. If you treat cultures as different and not superior or inferior, you will develop a more curious and open mind towards the new culture you live in now. If you believe you can learn a foreign language, you very probably will!
And the ability to understand and adapt your beliefs and values will be crucial to navigate cultural diversity. Beliefs and values are the filters through which we interpret the lower levels of behaviours, environment and capabilities. It is these filters that then create the feelings we have when confronted with a new environment.
Imagine you come from a culture that values seniority and experience; you have been promoted, as everyone else, based on your seniority. Suddenly you are in a culture valuing recent achievements more than seniority. You will probably feel you may not get the respect you deserve according to your own values. This will leave you irritated, annoyed and will not be conducive to successful interactions with your colleagues, bosses and subordinates.
In contrast, reviewing, understanding and adapting your values and beliefs when necessary will allow changing in turn your capabilities, behaviours and environment.