These days, the West focuses on cultural awareness, sensitivity, and diversity more than ever before – and that’s a good thing! Cultural awareness provides lots of wide-ranging societal and economic benefits. It helps companies reach wider audiences, makes people feel more visible and seen in the media, and drives political changes that increase human rights.
But cultural awareness is also beneficial on a personal level. Not sure how? Today, let’s break down the positive ways that cultural awareness affects life and your day-to-day routine.
What Is Cultural Awareness?
In a nutshell, cultural awareness means being able to consciously observe both similarities and differences between or within cultural groups. For example, a person or company that is culturally aware can:
- Understand how variations of behaviors might look between or within cultures
- Understand how culture is acquired and how it evolves over time
- Understand how cultures interact with one another and how they change each other
- Actively seek out ways to meaningfully and positively interact with people of other cultures
Cultural awareness is essential for fostering and cementing diversity in society and in your personal life. It’s never good to surround yourself with people just like you; that stifles creativity and originality of thought.
Through cultural awareness, you’ll learn:
- The unique benefits and values of different cultures relative to your own
- How your cultural attitudes and beliefs can interact positively with the attitudes and beliefs of others
- How to reduce or eliminate the negative elements of your culture so that you don’t harm others, intentionally or otherwise
This is a significant change. But increasing one’s cultural awareness is a lifelong journey, and it’s one you can undertake with others as well. Fortunately, practicing cultural awareness becomes easier as it goes on since you’ll notice various benefits in your personal and professional life.
Firstly, cultural awareness helps you build more friendships with more people. Who doesn’t like to have more friends?
You can build friendships with more people through cultural diversity because:
- You no longer only hang out with people just like you
- You recognize the humanity and positive aspects of people from other cultures
- You become a more pleasant person to spend time with, too
With bigger friend networks comes increased social opportunities. Many people meet their best friends, life partners, and future employers by widening their social nets. Improving your cultural awareness can help you see all these benefits and more.
More broadly, increasing cultural awareness will help you appreciate the differences between groups of people. Differences can be scary, but they don’t have to be!
In fact, cultural differences oftentimes help innovations and inventions rise from the wellspring of creativity in every human mind. Differences help us appreciate what we have and help us see new ways of looking at old problems.
Appreciating differences leads you to have a better outlook on life, social relations, and more. There’s a reason why Mark Twain’s famous quote is still echoed to this day: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
What Twain means is that by traveling, you improve your cultural sensitivity and learn to appreciate the glorious diversity all around you – plus appreciate your own culture more than before. Talk about a personal benefit!
Learn How To Love Different People
Cultural awareness literally improves your ability to love people. Whether romantic, platonic, familial, or some other version, love is fundamental to enjoying your life and deriving satisfaction from your decisions and labors.
If you only love a small group of people, you’ll find your life to be similarly narrow and limited. In contrast, improving your cultural awareness teaches you to love people who are different from you. This, in turn, makes you a more positive, friendly person, so you’ll make more friends and open yourself up to potential life-changing bonds.
More than that, learning to love different people has a broad impact on your core personhood. Being loving, accepting, and open-minded has tangible effects on how you do business, who you hang out with, and how you treat people you meet on the street.
All of that positively affects your life outlook, energy level, and ability to withstand life’s challenges.
Avoid Misjudging Others
In addition, more awareness of cultural backgrounds means you’ll be less likely to misjudge people. It’s never a good thing to go through life constantly worrying about the “other” and what they might do to you. Even worse, such thoughts can easily lead you to prejudiced behavior against other demographic groups. This human tendency has historically led to terrible notions of racism, sexism, and more.
Cultural awareness is the direct antidote to this tendency, though. Through cultural awareness, you learn that:
- Every culture has good and bad people
- You can’t judge someone based on their cultural markers. Each person is unique and holds the potential to enrich your life.
This skill, which is partially intuitive, will save you from major social mistakes in the future. As your cultural competence grows, you won’t make rude comments by accident, you’ll have an easier time bonding with new people, and more.
Furthermore, you’ll learn more about cross-cultural communication styles so that miscommunications happen less frequently. This can often be achieved through cultural competency training or case studies.
Cultural awareness can positively affect your professional life, as well. How? By making you a better leader.
Modern companies and workplaces are increasingly diverse, which means leaders at every step of the executive chain need to be more culturally aware. It won’t do for you to lead a multicultural, diverse team while ignoring some of your people’s cultural needs or faux pas.
For example, if you’re the leader of a small business startup, but you only give time off for Christmas rather than for other religious holidays in December, what message do you send your people? You inadvertently tell them that you only prioritize Christian individuals at your company.
In contrast, if you have more cultural awareness, you’ll know to give time off for all December religious holidays equally. More than that, you’ll:
- Prove to diverse team members that you care about them
- Show that you mean to ensure a fun, fair workplace for everybody
- Draw more talent to your workplace when word gets out about your leadership style
- See other benefits over time
Improved leadership can have a major impact on your company’s overall success, brand reputation, and much more. Therefore, business leaders should consider improving their cultural awareness consciously.
This can be achieved through cultural understanding classes, either in-person or through e-learning. Many of the best initiatives have curricula or in-person training on:
- Cultural identity differences
- Cultural knowledge overviews
- How factors like ethnicity affect the workplace and everyday life
- How to use mental health programs and mentoring to teach effective communication techniques to workers
- And more
The right classes will help you achieve better decision-making as you lead multicultural teams.
Perhaps more than anything else, increased cultural awareness always leads to more self-awareness as well. “Know thyself” is a major tenet in lots of philosophies and spiritual traditions for a reason: it’s the core to happiness and understanding what you want to do with your life.
By exposing yourself to more cultures and making friends with culturally diverse people, you’ll:
- Learn what separates you from others and what makes you distinct and interesting to be around
- Discover the parts of life that you care most about. You can’t know, for example, that you want to be a filmmaker if you never give yourself the opportunity to see the filmmaking process since you stay at home all your life.
- Understand your flaws and positive points more deeply than ever
All that self-awareness will provide ongoing benefits to your personal and professional life. As you become more self-aware, you’ll become happier, more self-confident, and feel more certain in your place in the world.
Explore Cultural Awareness Today
As you can see, cultural awareness is important to you in more ways than one. Cultivating it will lead to many wellness benefits across the board and help you become a better person privately and professionally at the same time.
That’s one of the main goals of 1AND1 Life. Our wellness guides, premium supplements, and other offerings can help you get in the right mindset for fostering cultural awareness.
Culture, behavior and health | PMC
The Importance of Cultivating Cultural Awareness at Work | Northeastern University
13 benefits and challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace | Hult International Business School