This is the last aspect usually covered in where cultures differ. This one is about the relationship of a culture to its environment in general, to the world around it.

There is a strong continuum here from having total control over things to recognising many things are out of our control. The three main parts of the continuum are control, harmony and humility.

The control orientation means you believe you have control over everything in your life and beyond. It is very empowering as it pushes you to act to achieve what you want. It makes for pro-active individuals and societies, a can do it attitude. However, there is a flip side to this. First, if you don’t achieve what you want, because you think you are in control of it, you are likely to blame yourself, guilt and decreased confidence in your abilities may creep in. In such societies where achievement is everything, not achieving will come at a cost. A second flip side is that such control cultures will also have a tendency to control things that are actually not in their control, i.e., the external world. Such a control view point of societies is leading to a less than optimal management of our world. We have been and are still destroying our planet. In many cases, even when well meaning, our lack of understanding of ecosystems and how the natural world really works has had damaging consequences for our planet.

On the opposite side of the continuum, we find humility cultures. These cultures recognise that many things are out of our human control. There are some limits not to trespass. Such an approach removes the bad feelings from not achieving. It also is in general more considerate of the world around. It usually makes people more grateful for what they have instead of always searching for “something better”. However, pushed to the extreme, it can mean a lack of action if people think they are really powerless, and accept passively whatever comes.

In the middle of this continuum, there is an approach to life usually described as harmony. Harmony is about balancing the control and humility approaches, understanding objectively what you can control and work on this and leaving aside what you cannot control. It is also about listening to ourselves, our feelings. It is recognising the complexity of the world without giving up what good we can do in this world. It is about balancing our apparently contradictory aspects.

As you have guessed, this is a very important aspect of culture. It does not only influence your interaction with people around you but your interactions with the whole world. As it is so wide-ranging, it will also have widespread consequences when people from a different side of the continuum come together.

If you are more on the control side, make sure you understand the consequences as much as you can of your actions. Refrain from thinking it is all about you and that you have to do what it takes to make it happen. Take into consideration others’ views on a situation and allow room for external factors to intervene. Do not push people with another view point to take action if they are on another side of the continuum. Accept that they will take the actions they think is appropriate for them.

If you are more on the humility or harmony side, you may think that people on the control side are “pushy” or arrogant in their abilities. Still, allow them to express themselves and discuss with them that they see further than the control they think they have. If you are really on the humility side and feel that you may let decisions to a great extent to external factors, you may want to think on how you could take a little more control and maybe move more towards harmony where forces are more balanced.

So, where are you on this continuum? How is this affecting your actions, your interactions with other people and the world?

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