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What is checking?

The third sub-dimension of CQ strategy is checking. CQ checking is verifying your assumptions and adjusting your mental maps when your experience differs from expectations.

Checking is the degree to which you go back to make sure your plan, assumptions, and expectations are correct considering diversity and multicultural influences. You are asking to see whether the plan you made is going to work in light of the particular culture.

At a conference, I once heard a story about an international program funded by the United States government to provide educational opportunities and schooling for children in a war-torn nation. The United States sent a delegation of officials to present and explain the educational program to the decision makers in the local places planned for these schools. The decision makers were said to be tribal “warlords.” The meeting of these tribal leaders or warlords with the United States delegation took place in a large tent, as was the custom of the culture. When the United States delegation arrived at the large meeting tent, they asked how they were expected to present their PowerPoint of the educational program. There was no computer, video projector or video screen. The delegates were quickly informed that “warlords” do not do PowerPoint. The United States delegation did not practice high CQ strategy: checking. They expected to make a PowerPoint presentation as they would do in an Anglo country. The delegates failed to check and verify if PowerPoint was acceptable in this diverse cultural setting with very different types of local decision makers.

If you wish to improve your CQ strategy: checking, you first need to be willing and able to change your evaluation of the situation. Reframing may require you to identify the feeling you are experiencing. Is it fear, ambiguity, confusion, embarrassment, anger, happiness, and etc. Once you label the emotion, you then can question if it seems warranted or reasonable. It may be an opportunity to reframe.

In an earlier step, we learned to describe and only describe, then check your interpretation for accuracy, and then and only then evaluate. Describing, interpreting, and evaluating is a three-step process to use before reframing. Stopping to realize that the situation may be explained by diversity or cultural differences can help you reframe and make better decisions. Checking with others who have more cultural experience may be helpful.

Another step in checking is to test for accuracy. Look for ways to verify your observations, interpretations, and plans. Again, checking with another person who knows and understands the culture is wise. Be observant for visible and invisible cues. Is your direct communication being ignored? Are you being guided to get to know this other person and to build a relationship first? Are you being encouraged to sit at a different place at the table? Is this culturally different person not making eye contact with you? Are you being handed a business card in a most respectful way using both hands?

Testing for accuracy requires us to be observant and to constantly ask the question to ourselves, “Why?” Ask yourself, what is it I am not seeing here? Is there a better way to seek answers? The best way to learn answers is often to not use the word “why.” Asking why directly is considered rude in some cultures. If you wish to learn more, a better option might be to say, “Please tell me more about this …” or “Can you explain more about …”

In comments please share a helpful way you have learned on how to learn more about something you do not understand in a diverse culture. Join the discussion and then mark this step complete.

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Develop Your Cultural Intelligence

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