Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Table of contents
- What is Cultural Humility?
- How Cultural Humility Training Helps You as a Professional
- Cultural Humility Guide to Get Started in Your Education
- Putting Cultural Humility Advice to Work for Your Future
Thinking of transitioning into a new career with a trade school? Whether you’re a young person pursuing your passion, an older professional looking to start your next chapter, or anything in between, you’re preparing yourself for the next stage of your life.
And as you transition out of a culture you’re familiar with into a whole new landscape, cultural humility is one of your best tools for success.
What is cultural humility, why is it important, and how can you practice it as you begin your studies and embark on a new career? Here’s a quick and easy guide to help you get started.
What is Cultural Humility?
Cultural humility consists of three components:
- Prioritizing lifelong learning and self-evaluation
- Recognizing power dynamics and working to minimize imbalances
- Practicing and advocating the importance of partnerships and advocacy
The backbone of cultural humility is relatively simple, at least on the face of it—asking questions and actively trying to learn from others.
How is Cultural Humility Practiced?
It’s easiest to understand cultural humility in practice.
Let’s say you’re entering into a relationship with another person. Maybe you’re a drug and alcohol counselor taking on a new patient for the first time. Any relationship (but especially those in your professional life) requires rapid learning while also gracefully navigating differences.
Cultural humility means entering a relationship with someone with the intention of honoring their beliefs, values, and customs. It means acknowledging and honoring what makes that person different. And above all, it means accepting that person for who they are. This means that cultural humility is rooted in principles like openness, self-awareness, empathy, and learning.
Culture and Language
However, it’s important to remember that this practice is more complex than it sounds. Keep in mind the cultural iceberg—what we see, the surface culture is just 10% of the whole iceberg. Things like food, literature, and music are all examples of surface culture.
But the deep culture (the other 90% of the iceberg) is critical to cultural understanding. This includes things like communication rules (facial expressions, tone of voice, displaying emotion, body language, and conventional handling of social situations), as well as notions of friendship and courtesy, concepts of self and society, and various attitudes and approaches.
One of the best examples is language. We transmit culture through language, often without even realizing it. Part of the art of cultural humility is having enough willingness to learn that you begin to pick up on these differences over time.
Cultural Humility vs. Cultural Competency
At this point, we should distinguish between cultural humility and cultural competency, as it’s relatively easy to confuse them.
Cultural competence is the ability to participate ethically and effectively in intercultural settings. It demands dual awareness, not just of yourself and your own cultural background, but also of how other people’s backgrounds differ from yours. Cultural humility is a related practice of self-reflection regarding how your background and someone else’s background influences how you approach situations and how you can communicate effectively.
To put it simply, cultural humility enables cultural competence. You can’t have cultural competence without having cultural humility first. If you don’t have openness to differences and a willingness to learn and respect new cultural perspectives, you won’t be able to achieve cultural competence, regardless of the setting in question.
How Cultural Humility Training Helps You as a Professional
For those who are looking to transition their professional life—and navigate their new profession successfully—cultural humility is an essential tool for success.
For example, let’s say you want to work in the medical or health care field. Maybe you want to be a pharmacy technician or a dental assistant. Either way, you’re going to meet people from all walks of life, and they need to feel comfortable interacting with you to receive care. For healthcare professionals, cultural humility allows them to stay open to new perspectives and navigate new patient relationships to ensure the patient achieves their best possible health outcome.
Or maybe you want to be an HVAC technician. You still need cultural humility. After all, you have to interact with business owners and homeowners in order to work on their units, and your ability to navigate social situations contributes to their positive experience. Cultural humility is what allows you to enter new cultural situations and navigate them gracefully.
Cultural Humility Guide to Get Started in Your Education
Even if you haven’t started your new career yet, cultural humility can set you up for success in your studies. After all, you’re transitioning from a culture you’re familiar with to a whole new cultural landscape, and if you enter a new culture with a willingness to learn, the better chance you will have to adapt successfully.
Here are a few tips to help you practice cultural humility in your education journey.
Build Historical Awareness
It isn’t enough to be aware of your own background and how it differs from someone else. Culture is built on history, which means that if you’re going to navigate cultural differences, you have to build historical awareness of where that culture comes from.
By recognizing and understanding cultural history you can begin to do the humbling work of understanding someone else’s perspective in a meaningful way.
Hone in on Implicit Bias
Implicit bias is an unconscious belief, attitude, or association toward any social group. This happens because of the brain’s natural tendency to seek out patterns. Unlike explicit biases, like prejudice, implicit bias operates almost entirely unconsciously. However, our social conditioning plays a key role in the implicit biases we carry throughout our life. Essentially, we learn to expect certain patterns and unconsciously form them—which often translates into biases toward certain groups.
While implicit bias is unconscious, you can (and should) become more aware of your unconscious thinking and the ways in which you unconsciously move through society. The key is to identify patterns of behavior so that you can rewrite your unconscious pattern-seeking. Without it, you can’t achieve true cultural openness.
Seek (and Listen to) Outside Opinions
Learning from others is one of the three pillars of cultural humility. To that end, you need to seek out—and listen to—outside opinions.
Unfortunately, if you only listen to people who talk and think like you, groupthink kicks in, and the group settles into a self-fulfilling echo chamber. If you are truly dedicated to the work of learning from others—which can at times be uncomfortable—you have to seek out perspectives that are different from yours.
Then, once you find those perspectives, you have to be willing to listen. Especially in the uncomfortable moments when they tell you something you may not want to hear. Being humble enough to sit with that discomfort and learn how to do better is where real learning happens.
Be Prepared to Change with the Times
Finally, don’t be afraid to change with the times. If anything, you should embrace change.
People have a psychological tendency to resist change. We like what’s familiar and comfortable because we already know how to succeed in a familiar and comfortable environment. However, familiar and comfortable do not implicitly mean good. More to the point, if you’re not willing to step out of what’s familiar and comfortable to improve, the times will quickly leave you behind.
Again, this comes back to a willingness to learn new things. If you’re willing to seek out new perspectives, internalize new information, and figure out how to do better, you’ll have the tools you need to adapt to the times.
Putting Cultural Humility Advice to Work for Your Future
With cultural humility in your toolkit, you’re ready to meet new people and new situations with grace and self-confidence. For those transitioning into a new career, it’s the first step toward starting your next chapter.
If you’re ready to kick off the next chapter of your life, we’re here to help get your career on target. We offer adult education programs for a variety of professional interests. That way, you can take the first step toward your professional passion.
Ready to get started? Be sure to apply online today!