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Out & About in Cleveland

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Diversity Center and Global Cleveland

We started off Tuesday, June 24th, at Jumpstart on Carnegie Avenue where we attended another fine program put on by the Diversity Center and Global Cleveland titled "Intercultural Communication" presented by Ms. Amanda Cooper; Program Specialist, Professional Development; with the Diversity Center. When we first arrived, we met Mr. Ramesh P. Shah who is the father of Mr. Baiju Shah who is the Chairperson of Global Cleveland. Mr. Shah is a charming man who really loves Margaret W. Wong.

In addition to Mr. Shah we also knew Lisa Wong and Sibley Strader from OCA of Greater Cleveland who were both here today.

Ms. Joy Roller, President and CEO of Global Cleveland, also acknowledged Mr. Shah as the "father of her boss" as she addressed the thirty or so multicultural attendees before the program started. Ms. Roller said that she was happy that such a diverse group was here today because "it is what Global Cleveland is all about." She went on to say that immigrants create businesses in the United States at twice the rate of native-born people and that it is "important to understand cultural differences so people who come here will be appreciated."

Ms. Roller will be in Washington, DC on June 26th for the Global Cleveland multi-media event at the National Press Club Ballroom and she was very excited about it.

We have been to several programs taught by Ms. Cooper and, once again, she did an excellent job. During the course of the next two hours such topics as the definition of culture, what culture teaches us, , stacles to intercultural communication, styles of communication, and tips for intercultural communication competence were discussed and explored.

Particularly helpful were two exercises that the attendees asked to participate in. The first involved pairing up with another attendee and conducting a conversation in which one attendee was instructed to "Avoid eye contact when speaking to your partner and do not show any emotion or react to your partner when he or she is speaking" and the other attendee was instructed to "Sit/stand approximately six inches closer to your partner than you normally would and to use gestures when you are speaking" as an illustration of how the manners of different cultures are often misinterpreted and thus discomfort is created.

The other exercise involved all of the attendees individually filling out a questionnaire and then dividing into groups to discuss the results. On one side of the questionnaire were questions like how would you react if "a co-worker frequently touches your shoulder or arm when you are speaking with them" so we wrote down our first reaction. On the other side of the questionnaire was the same situation but this time it was noted that in some cultures standing close to others and touching is a usual part of their conversation. This prompted some very thoughtful discussion.

We made new friends today and greeted some old ones like Lisa Wong and Sibley Strader of OCA of Greater Cleveland with whom we posed for photos as the seminar was concluding.

All in all, what we got out of today's program was probably best said in the notebook that all of the attendees were given. In that notebook was an excerpt from a guidebook titled "Communicating Across Cultures" by Dan W. Prince and Michael H. Hoppe which contained a paragraph that read:

"It's impossible to understand all the communication nuances from all the world's cultures. But in today's global business environment, if you want to present yourself as a citizen of the world and to work effectively across cultural boundaries, you must be able to communicate respect for the customs, habits and rituals of others-especially for the people who work with you. As you become more aware of these differences and more skilled at communicating across those cultures, you become a better and more effective leader."

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