Intercultural Competence is a mindset/skill set that includes cultural self-understanding and understanding of others. It is more even an asset in diverse environments in an increasingly globalized world where we interact with people from different cultures, ethnicities, religions, race, socio-economic background, nationalities, etc. shaped by different values, beliefs, and experiences.
In this context, Intercultural Competence can positively affect peace, justice, equality, and development by creating a bridge that connects and encourages shifting and adapting behavior to cultural similarities and differences.
Developing Intercultural Competence is contingent upon self-understanding which is: ‘Make sense of one’s own cultural values, beliefs, and ideas’, and upon understanding of others: ‘Make sense of cultural differences of other people.’
There are two types of cultures: Observable and Non-Observable cultures. Observable cultures include “Objective artifacts created by a group of people reflected in observable behaviors,” (Example: Food, clothes, music, art, etc.) whereas the Non-Observable ones include “The core values, beliefs, and ideas learned from one’s group that guides attitudes.” (Example: Religion, work ethics, motivation, etc.) .
Consequently, the 21st century employers highly value the components of intercultural competencies such as: understanding different cultural contexts and viewpoints, and openness to new ideas and ways of thinking.
That being said, the diverse world in which we live is a composite of many cultures, values, and ways of interacting with one another. The “Dimensions of Diversity” wheel shows the complexity of the diversity filters through which all of us process stimuli and information. These dimensions include gender, religious beliefs, race, marital status, ethnicity, and many more components.
Respectively, the concept of ‘The Four Layers Model’ talks about Personality, Internal-External & Organizational Dimensions. These layers concern the aspects of diversity over which we have control or not.
On a separate level, the two types of biases ‘Implicit or Unconscious Bias’ operate outside of the person's awareness and can be in direct contradiction to a person's espoused beliefs and values.
What is so dangerous about implicit bias is that “it automatically seeps into a person's behavior and is outside of the full awareness of that person” (National Center for Cultural Competence, George Washington University).
However, most of the biases are implicit such as In-Group Bias which is the tendency for people to give preferential treatment to others who belong to the same group that they do.
In turn, Communication constitutes the process of exchanging information, and culture in communication refers to the effect of the cultural characteristics of communicators on this process. Hence, our culture's characteristics influence these communications, so learning about these features can help us identify issues, address them, and become a better communicator.
To conclude, Intercultural Competence means a Relationship Building where the success of countries, cities and individuals in the global arena increasingly depends on individual and collective abilities to communicate competently with people from various backgrounds.
Thus, the 21st century skills comprise the abilities and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required for success in our society and workplaces by educators, business leaders, academics, and governmental agencies, while Social and cross-cultural interaction, communication, collaboration, flexibility, and adaptability remain the ones that are needed for career and life in the century we live in.