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Resilience, Wisdom and Empathy: Combining Emotional & Cultural Intelligence

Albert Einstein once said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”


So what is intelligence? According to contemporary psychologists, Intelligence is the ability to adapt to one’s environment. Therefore, being intelligent in one environment may not mean that you’ll be considered intelligent in another and cross-cultural studies have highlighted that non-academic intelligence exists.


Besides academic intelligence, the three most recognized types of intelligence are practical intelligence, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence, which are all important for success.


However, what makes you emotionally intelligent in one culture may not translate to another.


For example, in cultures that value honor, anger is more frequently shown whereas in collective cultures, shame is more intensely displayed. In the US, where individualism is highly valued and emphasized, people are more likely to show excitement and joy when highlighting their personal success.


In many Asian countries including Taiwan, group harmony is very important and people will often choose to focus on humility, rather than publicly celebrate their personal achievements.


Researchers have discovered six universal facial expressions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. These facial expressions are recognized similarly across cultures. However, people from different cultures express emotions differently in the same social situations. For example, sometimes Westerners feel confused when their Asian coworkers laugh in a serious situation or put ‘haha’ at the end of a sentence when discussing a sensitive issue.


I’ve heard one European woman ask before: “Is she laughing at me? Does she think the situation is funny?” I think you already know the answer right? From my experience, laughter in Taiwan as well as in other cultures, for example, Japan may be used to express embarrassment or awkwardness and is a tool to help make the atmosphere lighter and more harmonious.


From these examples, you can see that Emotional intelligence often does not transfer across cultures. A leader or colleague who has high levels of emotional intelligence in their own culture might find it difficult to respond appropriately in new cross-cultural situations.

For example, a communication strategy that works well in Paris may not in Hong Kong.


Taiwan's most Northeast point


Intercultural communication means that we need to interact with people who do not share our values or standards for behavior, therefore we must adapt our views of what it means to be emotionally intelligent according to the particular cultural setting.


This is what Cultural EQ is: being more aware of the values, beliefs, and attitudes of people from different cultures, and having the intercultural skills to respond with empathy, wisdom, and impact.



Let’s take a look at this model, which I created for teams and leaders in the belief that impactful global leadership and team collaboration begin with impactful and empathetic communication. CulturalEQ development means you can help yourself and your organization:


  1. Increase self-awareness, including personal or group values, strengths, and blind spots

  2. Develop Emotional Intelligence leading to improved relationships and life balance

  3. Cultivate your Cultural Intelligence and ability to communicate effectively across cultures and generations

  4. Deepen your personal presence as well as positively influence others.


One client told me recently "When you reach the level of a manager or people leader, it's not about the job or your technical skills, it's about your ability to communicate with your team, your people.”


Communicating successfully requires more than good language skills and technical know-how. It also needs CulturalEQ - the combined strength & wisdom of Cultural & Emotional Intelligence. Remember, just having knowledge of the differences between your and other's cultures has limited benefits in challenging and unknown situations. Rather, the wisdom gained from the self-awareness and reflection involved in CQ Strategy and Action will be of real benefit to you regardless of your current and future job roles.


You can start by developing these skills by asking yourself this question: - Am I 100 percent responsible for how I communicate? If not, what percent?


Then ask yourself how you can increase that.


Contact me here to set up a Discovery Call on how you can develop your own CulturalEQ communication skills for leadership and team communication in today's VUCA world.


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