Thanks to a scholarship from the University I was able to spend March 12- 15 in Charlotte attending the Inaugural Winter Institute for Cultural Communication sponsored by the Institute and the Wake Forest Office of Diversity & Inclusion. It was a great gathering of about 80 attendees; thirty of which were from WFU. The Institute offered a choice of four different three day classes. During breaks and meals together, it was obvious that folks were all engaging in some pretty lively discussions. My class choice entitled Emotional Intelligence and Diversity: Building the Personal Infrastructure for Interpersonal and Organizational Effectiveness was taught by Lee Gardenswartz and was one of the best I’ve had on this particular topic.

Like me, you may be wondering how these two concepts Emotional Intelligence and Diversity work together within the workplace. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage our emotions and those around us. Emotions are at the heart of our energy and motivations. Emotions drive behavior. They are fundamental in how we react to the differences we see in others. Gaining understanding and mastery over our emotions leads to greater success as an employee, manager or leader. Emotions are the source of energy for doing the right and the smart thing. Each day’s class featured role playing, self-exploration and tons of spirited conversation. Class discussions focused around these four key elements:

Affirmative Introspection addresses why we behave and react the way we do. The more we know about ourselves and how life experiences have shaped who we are and how we respond to any given situation, the more we can manage our emotions. The more we understand and manage our emotional responses, the more comfortable we are in working relationships, the more effective we are in our daily interactions and the more we are at peace within our own skin.

Self-governance enables one to gain mastery over the feelings that arise when facing uncertainty, change and difficult people. This aspect of Emotional Intelligence involves dealing with the ambiguity that diverse environments bring. Management of our own mental self-talk is seen as crucial. Bringing logic, accuracy and reason to the forefront aids in mastering self-talk aids and in governing our emotions.

Intercultural Literacy involves understanding others cultural rules, norms and values, while being able to empathize with them and walk in their shoes. Resist the temptation to judge as inferior, styles, customs and values that are different from your own. Each culture has its’ own set of norms. Rules for “polite behavior” differ from culture to culture, family to family and even from person to person. Empathizing demonstrates caring and understanding. What do we as an organization do to learn about the cultures of those we serve and interact with daily?

Social Architecting is an intentional and conscious decision to build productive relationships by serving as a cultural interpreter. The Interpreter helps others understand the different cultural perspectives involved in situations. Serving as a cultural interpreter involves these “mindful” steps: being aware of our first reaction to and interpretation of an event, suspending our judgment of it, identifying alternative ways of understanding it and finally having a repertoire of choices in responding to the situation in order to increase our effectiveness with others.

I have a workbook on each of the elements. This is really good stuff. I would love to continue conversations around this topic and/or share the material with anyone who’s interested.