Within the political paradigm, the cultural concept, the religious routine, emphasis is
placed on distinction. In an effort to maintain their identities, members of certain groups keep to themselves, lest they be tempted to a new way of thought.
“Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc.”- Saul McLeod
Avoiding cognitive dissonance is the basis of cultural isolation. It is more comfortable to associate with those who share your ideals. It is more comfortable to only consume media that reflects one’s disposition. This comfort becomes so normal that it is easy to forget that differences exist and that persons who harbor differences are just as human, valuable and eager to find understanding as ourselves.
Aware of the danger of cognitive dissonance, I try to open myself to new ideas spirituality, educationally, culturally and sometimes politically.
I understand how my culture and experiences have shaped my perception of reality. I seek to understand the origins of others’ beliefs and validate their right and will to pursue their own choice.
Political discrepancies can off-putting . I don’t define myself by my affiliation, but my inclinations reflect many of my values. Values I have believe are right (left) and nearly absolute.
I have an acquaintance whose political preference and cultural identity contrast mine completely. We have a friendship, and I vowed to never discuss politics. But the topic emerged, and I walked away with a greater understanding and appreciation for my conservative friend and individuals.
As we explored our differences I found that our different perspectives stemmed from similar values.
Our intrinsic beliefs were the same we had just chosen different ways of conveying them, and different opinions on how others should be empowered.
My views were not changed, but my understanding and respect for that person did grow, as did my cultural competence.
Navigating an uncomfortable conversation, accepting differences, striving to understand and validate the experiences, demonstrate cultural competency.
Identity Diversity Development Theory by Alicia Chávez, et. al details the steps of cultural competency.
According to this framework individuals are categorized as:
- Unaware of those who are different
- Dualistically Aware and consider those who are different as inferior
- Questioning/ Self- Exploratory in challenging their personal biases and prejudices
- Risk Taking/ Other Exploration interacting with others to gain understanding
- Integrating/ Validating Others consciously applying their understanding of others, and intentionally validating and respecting differences
Who said risk-taking was dangerous? It may be the only way to create a safer society.
The more that I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know very much. I’m still working towards cultural competency, and I will get there one conversation at a time!
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. -Dr. Martin Luther King