Understanding Others: Bridging the Cultural Divide, pt. 3

This is the third 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

Suggestion #1: Understanding Others, pt. 2

Awareness of worldviews can be a seedbed from which understanding new, shared meanings emerge. There are several ways to help express one’s worldview: examining or 03.1 sharing storiescreating new or personal stories, designing new rituals, discovering common myths, and finding inclusive metaphors. Similarly, sharing stories of heroes and heroines helps people glimpse what is important to others and uncover values they share. In doing so, all parties reveal information about their identity, what they find meaningful, their ideas about life, and relationships.

By listening deeply to other stories, individuals find it harder to sustain negative images of others, discovering instead commonalities that had previously been missed. From this base of empathy, individuals are able to explore shared values with more ease, while not03.2 losing sight of the values they do not share. As we positively engage with each other, we can learn deeply about group identities (who they see themselves to be) and meanings (what matters to them and how they make meaning). As we go through this process of discovery, places of connection and divergence become clearer.

Prejudice may be reduced as one learns and understands more about different groups of


people. Prejudice is a direct result of generalizations and oversimplifications made about an entire group of people based on incomplete or mistaken information. If one has the opportunity to deeply communicate with different people, both parties are better able to understand and appreciate different points of views. However, the quality of interaction not mere contact is key to bridging the cultural divide, since it is difficult for everyone to eliminate preconceived stereotypes and shift entrenched mindsets.

Mingling with one another in an informal and personal way and having long enough contact situations allows different groups to feel comfortable with one another. Without this interaction they learn very little about each other and cross-group friendships do not occur. But if people at different points on the divide use contact situations to trade insults, argue, resort to physical violence, or discriminate against each other, then contact cannot be expected to reduce inter-group conflict. To obtain beneficial effects, the situation must be positive. If a positive experience occurs, prejudice often diminishes.

01.2 DeniseAbout 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 nine books, blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units for the non-profit and clients.

DivCover-dsDivided: 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  



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