Different Cultural Frames of Reference.

One of the values we are currently embracing in Cru is growing in cultural competency. With that in mind our Student LINC and Coaching Center team is reading Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah.

We’ve had some really good discussions as we process each week’s chapter assignment. But twenty minutes really only just gets us started.

If you haven’t read Many Colors, chapter four defines some scales helpful in understanding how we process information, how we relate to one another, and how we lead or view leadership. I will list them with the simplest of definitions.

1. Individual vs. Group Orientation

  • Individual: Takes individual initiative, makes decisions individually, prioritizes individuals are above the group.
  • Group: Acting cooperatively, makes decisions as a group, conform to social norms, puts the team before individuals.

2. Guilt vs. Shame

  • Guilt. Responsible for individual sin resulting from individual action, corrected by confession.
  • Shame. Responsible for corporate sin, focus is on becoming a person of honor, corrected by transformation.

3. Equality vs. Hierarchy

  • Equality. Self-directed, individual initiative, flexible roles and expectations, offers own opinion.
  • Hierarchy. Directions from above, leader controlled, firm roles and expectations, respect status of leaders.

4. Direct vs. Indirect

  • Direct. Focus is on what is said, engage in conflict, focus on information, express opinions in frank manner.
  • Indirect. Focus on how it is said, avoid conflict, focus on feeling, express opinions diplomatically.

5. Task vs. Relationship

  • Task. Focus on keeping good time, accurate information, define people by what they do, logic orientation.
  • Relationship. Focus on building relationships, create a feel-good atmosphere, define people by who they know, feeling orientation.

Some of these scales of interaction are more easily grasped than others. One end of the spectrum is not right or wrong compared with the other. It’s a matter of understanding different cultural frames of reference. You may have found yourself, like I did, identifying one way or the other depending upon the context or group you’re part of. But all of this is to help us appreciate and value those who approach communication, relationships, and leadership differently.

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