Research Blog 4: Getting comfortable with differences

Last night I participated in an interesting discussion presented by Sietar BC on the intercultural aspects of hosting events such as the Olympics, Paralympics, and Commonwealth Games.  I was struck by how language and perspective shifted in the conversation, depending on whether we were talking about the process of putting on the Games  — or the intended outcome of the Games.

When discussing process we talked more about cultural differences – how the cultural orientation of staff working at the Games can affect how the work gets done, as an example.  When discussing outcome, we talked more about cultural connection – how bringing people together creates a spirit of commonality that speaks to the essence of the event.  While those conversation threads can seem almost contradictory when viewed separately, together they represent the larger whole that intercultural communication looks to embody.

That discussion led me to think about Multiculturalism at 40 and what I am asking people to do: write about a personal experience observing cultural difference in their everyday lives.  It’s not a topic that rests comfortably with everyone. I know in speaking about the project, I’ve occasionally had the feeling that multiculturalism in Canada is on that list of topics that people feel they “shouldn’t” talk about. I also admit I’ve had moments when the notion of focusing on differences has made me feel uncomfortable.  What makes us nervous?

If I go back to the evening with Sietar BC, there is something in the duality of that conversation that is important to realize.  We know that an awareness and openness to different ways of seeing, and being in the world is one way to foster greater connection.  Perhaps in our everyday lives, though, we fear that the process of discussing differences won’t be perceived as supporting an outcome of greater understanding – or will become disconnected from it.  If we can find more ways to keep  the discussion process and that intended outcome framed together perhaps we’ll grow more confident about the conversation as a whole.  And from the stories submitted to this project so far I can see there is such a range of human experience to be explored that is variously thoughtful, startling, joyful, challenging, amusing and inspiring.








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>