Maryland Positive Behavior Support Training

Learning About & Celebrating Cultural Differences

A group of three people from different cultures working together.

Each person grows into adulthood in different ways based on childhood experiences, the values that people around them share, the settings where they live, and their community. As humans, we are not always aware of how these cultural differences impact our responses to other people. It is important to be open to learning about how others view the experiences we share. Each person’s values and history can mean that they have a different understanding and opinion about experiences shared with others. In some families, active and loud debates are encouraged and valued while in others disagreeing loudly may be viewed as sign of disrespect. Being person centered means that we actively listen to and learn from each other so that we can understand each other better.

An important goal is to avoid exerting power over someone in ways that create anger or frustration or that deliver unintentional messages that are negative resulting in the person feeling devalued or ignored. 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 respond and convey respect for each person. The ability to convey respect for the opinions of other people is an important part of being culturally responsive.

There is a growing awareness that dominant cultural groups where a large number of people have the same cultural values can contribute to systemic racism. This can lead to an organization’s policies, hiring and promotion process, and decisions benefiting certain groups of people while making it harder for people from different cultures to succeed.

Many organizations offer annual diversity trainings but do not provide the ongoing learning events that are needed to make real change. Ideally these ongoing events include time to discuss and reflect on our values and share how these values impact our work. This can help each person make changes in 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