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A Brief Note on the Multi-Layered Nature of Cross-Cultural Competence

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This report presents a figure that illustrates the complexity of the Department of Defenses DoDs operational environment with respect to cross-cultural interactions. Warfighters and civilians are faced with multiple layers of cultural influence. This figure shows how an individual located at the center of the circle is first influenced by his or her own culture. Experts agree that to effectively negotiate cross-culturally, one must first understand the broad concept of culture as well as the nature of ones own culture and biases. Next, each warfighter or civilian typically works on a team with other Americans who come from many parts of the United States. To communicate, cooperate, or lead such teams, one must have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to work with and lead individuals who are different from oneself. Next, folks are put into a military context and asked to assimilate into a military culture. Understanding this culture is important to operating effectively, but the complexity of this is also increased when asked to operate across Services within a Joint environment. Military cultures within the Armed Services are very different, and coordinating between Services or agencies can present challenges, both operationally and doctrinally. In addition to these intra-military aspects of culture, our increasingly frequent work with international partners and coalitions such as NATO presents unique challenges in language and cross-cultural interaction. Accepted practices, behaviors, tactics, and mission goals may differ across international forces, and effective coordination and integration of these commands depends upon understanding and addressing differences effectively to create a truly integrated team. Finally, the current global environment requires our forces to not only engage foreign nations with weapons, but to engage in reconstruction, humanitarian, security, training, and other missions not directly related to warfighting.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Psychology
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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