Creating mutual cultural respect

Culture determines what is acceptable or unacceptable, important or unimportant, right or wrong, workable or unworkable. It is claimed that culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy.

There is a heightened chance of misunderstanding, miscommunication and mismanagement, if we are not well acquainted with each other's norms, values, rules of life and codes of behaviour.

Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster. Thus, mutual cultural respect plays a pivotal role in intercultural interactions. Respect is harder because you have to learn a little about others' values and practices. You have to know enough about those values and practices to understand why they are prized, and so why it is important to respect them.

Take the scenarios in Namibia, for example, as foreigners, irrespective of your national and cultural traits, you have to learn a little about Namibian cultures and in so doing you will be in a position to understand and respect the values and practices of Namibians. And this will result in your contribution to a harmonious working relation and environment in Namibia.

Sometimes, however, when wrapped up in the midst of our own beliefs, we can find it challenging to accept others ways of life and rituals. Intercultural miscommunication arises when you fail to accommodate and accept the other cultural values, customs, practices and traditions. Such miscommunication happens across the world including Namibia where both Chinese and Namibians (also between some other cultural groups) sometimes fail in their business interactions in terms of interpretation and understanding due to the different cultural variables they carry respectively.

Such miscommunication, if not handled appropriately, would lead to stereotype, hatred and even conflicts. Therefore, learning to accept and respect the other cultural values, customs, practices and traditions is an important step that opens your mind to the world around you and everyone's unique differences.

Every human being and nation, irrespective of their power, or strength, has the right to be respected. Respect means being treated with consideration and esteem and to be willing to treat people similarly. It means to have a regard for other peoples' feelings.

Mutual cultural respect plays an important role in global villages because 1) Respect allows one to build trust with the other. 2) Respect allows one to build and rebuild relationships. 3) Respect provides one with an entry, into the other side .4) In addition, according respect can make the key difference in the direction of the conflict. 5) Its presence can lead to a positive change, whilst its absence may lead to even more destruction. 6) Respect helps bridge the gap.

Evidently, in international communities, cultural respect exists to improve and strengthen multicultural relations, harmony and peace and furthermore facilitate and stimulate political and economic development across the world.

Mutual cultural respect is created in many ways, which include the following points:

1. Become familiar with the values, traditions, and customs of various cultures, especially those you are living in. With this knowledge you will be able to show your respect to the people from other cultural groups which cultures might be offensive to yours.

2. It is created when people treat others as they want to be treated. This brings us to the famous quotation from the Bible. Do unto others as you would others do unto you. This also brings the element of circularity to it. That is, things are connected and in relationship. So the growth of something, such as respect, often nourishes itself from its own process and dynamics.

3. Avoid insulting people or their culture; instead try to understand them. Many disastrous interactions are characterized by attitudes such as arrogance, disdain, fear of difference, among others. To avoid this, it helps to contact people who are familiar with the unfamiliar culture and can give the people guidelines of how to best adapt to the culture.

4. Be courteous. Listen to what others have to say. Treat people fairly. All the basic elements that we learned in Kindergarten will go a long way to creating an atmosphere of trust and respect.

5. Apart from the above, when already involved in a conflict, abandoning the Golden Rule and putting yourselves into the others' shoes will help you out of the conflicting situation. Integrating /compromising conflict styles are always the best options.

Thus the presence of respect can help transform conflicts, by providing opportunities that did not exist before. At the same time, the absence of respect can lead to conflict. Contempt and humiliation are the absence of respect, as are a sense of being unheard or not understood. The absence of respect or a perceived lack of respect often leads to conflict at an individual, family and societal level.

Since the first key step to building strong relationships is respect, the absence of respect or the breakdown of respect are also key factors in the breakdown of relationships and in the occurrence of conflict. Tribalism and xenophobia in Namibia reveal the absence of respect.

Recognize respect to be a basic human right, treat individuals and states with dignity, and you will receive a more sustainable response. The relationships so established will be based on mutual trust and respect, and hence is likely to last. For the sake of peace, harmony and good neighbourhood in the global villages, love your cultures and respect the others', as well.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia