This is the first of an 18-part series that explores our deep cultural divide and offers 10 suggestions about how we can contribute to bridging the divide.
By Dr. Denise R. Ames
Do you ever think or say: “Why don’t they see that ______ (fill in the blank), it is so obvious to everyone?” It is difficult for us to see how and why another person acts, thinks, and responds the way he/she does. In other words, it is difficult to “walk in another person’s shoes.”
But walking in another person’s shoes is exactly what we must do to help bridge the deep and treacherous cultural divide that threatens to tear us apart (even more) as a nation. We often wistfully talk about bridging the divide but actually doing so is more difficult than we imagined. We are often ridiculed or ignored for pointing out another person’s point of view, especially if that person is considered “the enemy” by the group you are with. When cultures are vastly different, or if people are opposed to such exchange, the cultural divide may prove difficult to bridge.
Bridging the cultural divide can be beneficial. The chances of bridging the divide increase if we are able to develop astute cultural awareness, increasing our openness to dealing with major cultural differences. Improving one’s openness requires both humility when learning from others, curiosity, and deep reflection. It takes time and reflection to resist automatically filtering information and events through our own processing system. It is so easy to impulsively think and act as if our way is the best way. We need to develop cues that signal to us that it is time to step back and “walk in another person’s shoes.”
To help us bridge the cultural divide, I have outlined ten suggestions or “cues” that I have found are important in enhancing our cultural awareness and bridging the cultural divide. Improving one’s cultural awareness helps one to deal better with the stress, cultural shocks, and tension that invariably arise from interacting with people who hold other worldviews. I also draw on the insightful work of moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt who wrote the best-selling book, The Righteous Mind.
Rather than practical tips, these ten suggestions are more philosophical adjustments to our ways of thinking and behaviors that I have found helpful in understanding and opening us up to cultural and philosophical differences. Please join me in this 18-part blog series.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences—scholarly research, teaching, reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development trainings, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, developing globally-focused books and educational resources. She has written seven books, blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units for the non-profit and clients.
Dr. Ames is now developing a program called Turn—transformative understanding and reflection network—that encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, shift perspectives, and understand the balance in all things. She teaches classes and writes about cross-cultural awareness, indigenous wisdom, a transformative worldview, learning from the past, a mythic journey, and transforming travel.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!
Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books