A number of scholars and experts have tried to explain the impact of cross cultural differences on people’s behaviour to help reduce the intercultural risks of international business. Dr. Milton Bennett, co-founder of the Intercultural Development Research Institute, believes that the more experience a person has with cultural differences the more that person will develop intercultural competence, becoming more effective when working across cultures.
According to Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), there are six stages on this path to developing intercultural competence, each characterised by certain perceptions and behaviour towards the “own” and the “other” culture.
As the graphic below illustrates the main change along the line of intercultural competence occurs from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism. In other words, from an understanding of your own culture as being superior to an understanding of your own culture as equal in value and complexity to any other culture.
Each of the six phases of Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity are described in more detail below:
Denial: When in this first stage, individuals refuse all interaction with other cultures and show no interest in discovering cultural differences. They may also act agressively during cross cultural situations.
Defense: In this stage, individuals consider all other cultures to be inferior to their own culture and will constantly criticise behaviour or thoughts by someone from another culture.
Minimisation: When this stage is reached, individuals will start believing that all cultures share commom values. They will also minise any cultural dfferences by correcting people to match their expectations.
Acceptance: At this stage, individuals may still judge other cultures negatively but they will tend to recognise that cultures are different and they may become curious about cultural differences
Adaptation: During this stage individuals gain the ability to adapt their behaviour more easily and effectively by intentionally changing their own behaviour or communication style.
Integration: This stage tends to only be achieved by long term expatriates living and working abroad or Global Nomads. In this stage, individuals instinctively change their behaviour and communication style when interacting with other cultures.
Progressing from ‘Ethnocentrism’ to ‘Ethnorelativism’ on the scale takes time, yet it is vital for the success of any business person working in what is an increasingly global economy. Becoming more interculturally sensitive can be achieved through a combination of first hand experience with other cultures and participation on intercultural training courses like Effective Global Leadership or Doing Business in India.
While the final stage ’integration’ is seldom reached, a combination of experience living and working in other countries and taking part in tailored intercultural training courses allows global business people to reach the ‘adaptation’ stage, acquiring a high level of intercultural competence that will ensure they are successful working internationally.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2010