Cross-Cultural Communication with Latinos
Having interacted with people of many other cultures, we’ve seen that often the true stumbling block in relating to people of another culture isn’t just lack of exposure or willingness to “understand,” but the unconscious assumption that other people think they way I do.
Just recently, we were talking to a manager of cleaning staff for a local organization, and she expressed her frustration with some of her Latino employees. She had asked them to do something, which they agreed to do, but in the end they simply didn’t follow through on the task. Her conclusion was, “Either they didn’t understand me (but I know they did), or they just don’t care (which I know they do, because they are excellent workers).”
Without realizing it, this woman had seen her employees’ lack of follow-through and jumped to two possible conclusions: either these employees don’t understand or they don’t care. The fact is, it was probably neither. However, coming from “mainstream” U.S. culture which values direct and open communication, she only saw two logical conclusions. She wasn’t aware that sometimes in Latino work culture, agreeableness is more important than accountability. So from the perspective of the employees, it may have been more important to be agreeable and pleasing to their boss (out of respect) than to tell her that they couldn’t complete what she asked of them.
The thing is, Latinos form the largest minority in the U.S., and their population is expected to triple from 2008 to 2050. This isn’t a group that any sector of society can afford not to communicate effectively with.
Many people have the desire to be understanding of people of other cultures, perhaps the true first step is to understand your own assumptions about humans and what your culture values as the “correct” way to live, work and communicate.