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Lessons From a Conversation

Recently, a professional visited my home for some paperwork. During our conversation, my husband casually mentioned his weight, to which the person responded with a friendly smile, saying, “Oh, you’re as skinny as those Ethiopians, nothing to worry about!”

I later mentioned that we are Ghanaian immigrants, at that moment her expression shifted, and she quickly apologized for her earlier comment. Attempting to make amends, she shared details about her own family’s diverse background. However, she soon made another assumption, saying, “Your English is so good! You must have been here for a long time!” Despite her friendly demeanor, this person unwittingly dug herself into a hole with her biases, hindering a genuine connection. What was missing in this encounter? Cultural intelligence! Language fluency doesn’t necessarily correlate with the length of one’s stay in a particular country. See, I grew up speaking English, and I would sadly admit that I speak it better than the 3 other languages I speak.

This encounter prompted me to reflect on the missed opportunities that arise when we fail to engage with others meaningfully. Assumptions and comments like these can alienate us and hinder the opportunity to connect authentically with someone from another culture.

In a world where our paths constantly intersect with those from diverse backgrounds, developing heightened cultural sensitivity is imperative. Every encounter becomes an opportunity to bridge gaps and foster genuine understanding. This instance served as a gentle reminder that our assumptions, even if unintentional, can potentially hinder authentic connections.

Nurturing cultural intelligence enables us to appreciate diversity, creating a more inclusive and respectful environment. By recognizing the uniqueness of each individual, we can deepen understanding and forge stronger connections.

Let’s strive to build connections that transcend surface-level interactions, celebrating the richness of our collective human experience.

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