Maryland Positive Behavior Support Training

Learning About & Celebrating Cultural Differences

A group of three people from different cultures working together.

Each of us has grown up in different ways based on our childhood experiences, the values the people around us share, the settings where we live, and the unique aspects of our community. We are not always aware of how these cultural differences impact how we respond to other people. It is important to be open to learning about how others view the same experiences. Each person’s values and upbringing can mean that they have different opinions and perspectives. For instance, in some cultures, active and loud debates are encouraged and valued while in other cultures disagreeing loudly with others may be viewed as sign of disrespect. Being person-centered means that we actively listen and learn from each other so that we can understand each person better and avoid exerting power over someone in ways that create anger or frustration or that deliver unintentional messages that are negative and result in person feeling devalued.

Being culturally responsive means that we are aware of our own values and identity and are actively learning about the different cultures and viewpoints of others so that we can make changes in how we interact and convey respect for each other. The ability to convey this respect that you have for the opinions of other people becomes an important part of being culturally responsive. 

There is a growing awareness that dominant cultural groups can contribute to systemic racism with the result being that an organization’s policies, hiring and promotion processes, and decisions benefit certain groups of people while making it harder for other people from different cultures to succeed.  Many organizations offer annual diversity trainings but do not provide ongoing learning opportunities that are needed throughout the year to make real change. Ideally these ongoing opportunities would include time to discuss and reflect on our values, share how these viewpoints impact our work, and make changes in our day-to-day routines in ways that are culturally responsive. Organizations that are building culturally responsive work environments create action plans to change policies, review data, celebrate diversity in different ways, and design ongoing learning opportunities.

Cultural responsiveness means that:

  • Cultural values and viewpoints are explored in ways that celebrate and embrace diversity and differences
  • Problem-solving strategies are used to explore differences in cultural viewpoints and prevent systemic racism
  • Ongoing learning opportunities encourage dialogue, reflection, and respect for others
  • Opportunities to practice empathy are encouraged
  • Self-awareness and forgiveness are valued as people learn more about each other
  • Diversity is actively sought out and cultures are celebrated