While working in Bangladesh I have worked mostly in the operations role and field. That means procurements, finances, HR responsibilities, staying abreast of all IT related issues, SECURITY, it goes on and on. I’m not on the program side of things.
What is not missing if daily interaction in Bangladesh. Some days are more successful than others and sometimes when I’m saying hello or good morning to my staff it can appear gratuitous.
Developing cultural agility takes time and time+errors builds experience and lessons learned. I found it valuable to keep a journal but also mouth shut and eyes and ears open. What does the country have to say to you, what to the people have to say to you, how is it said and what’s your orientation?
Lately I have been exploring more and more of Participatory Rural Appraisals or PRA. They are an alternative to using survey’s and questionnaires putting the local population in charge of it’s own affairs and listening and learning how to proceed vs asserting an outside influence on how to get things done.
I set about asking how does one go about developing basic skills for cultural agility and guess what? I found the following and they are extremely helpful.
Six key skills that will help you master cultural agility from Michelle Randall:
- Self-awareness. Being aware of your own cultural biases, behaviors, and worldviews.
- Being attuned to your environment, and to cultural nuances. Adjusting your behavior to harmonize the relationship–without mimicking.
- Adapting to cultural differences and ambiguities. Being flexible to the situation.
- Being authentic. (It’s not about putting on somebody else’s culture, but about being able to interact in a way that’s relevant and important to them.)
- Acquiring knowledge about other cultures. Immersing yourself in the foreign culture and seeking out new experiences.
- Continually assessing how you’re developing in each of these areas, and looking for opportunities to grow.
Every person will find what works for them. My father gave me a copy of, “The Ugly American”. A book written 1958, a political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer which influenced the way the American overseas behaved and impacted policy, helping to form the Peace Corps.
The authors were disillusioned with the style and substance of U.S. diplomatic efforts in Southeast Asia. They sought to demonstrate through their writings their belief that American officials and civilians could make a substantial difference in Southeast Asian politics if they were willing to learn local languages, follow local customs and employ regional military tactics.