Cultural influences shape the framework through which people view the world and operate in their everyday approach to life. Culture impacts the distinct ways people define and organize their lifestyle, guiding beliefs, and basic assumptions about life. Culture is an important guiding force in how individuals live and shape not only their perceptions, but their relationships with people and the world around them. In many cases, individuals will form social and peer groups based on cultural similarities. These cultural groups share values, belief systems, symbols, behavioral patterns, and other characteristics that distinguish them from other groups. Cultural groups can provide a source of belonging, identity, mutual help, validation, and self-esteem.
Furthermore, these cultural groups are not always mutually exclusive, and an individual may hold simultaneous memberships within different groups.
Understanding cultural diversity involves gaining a greater awareness of the ways cultural heritage and background influence values, assumptions, thought processes, and relationships. The process of learning about cultural diversity begins with moving away from a single cultural perspective that devalues differences at the interpersonal, personal, institutional, and cultural levels and moves toward a pluralist cultural perspective that practices acceptance, valuing, utilization, and celebration of both similarities and differences.
In a global business environment, managers and executives will undoubtedly interact with individuals and groups from other cultural backgrounds. One of the most effective ways to achieve an appreciation and understanding of cultural diversity is by taking advantage of opportunities to develop genuine relationships with individuals who are culturally different. Learning about the experiences and perspectives of those who see things through a different cultural framework can be of benefit both professionally and personally.
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