What is culture? What does it mean to be multicultural? As an expat, how can you accelerate your integration in a new workplace, in a new town, in a new neighborhood?
In my work as an executive coach with people from all over the world, I have created a simple model to help my clients understand cultural change. I have now been successfully using it in my coaching and training practice for several years.
The Four Core Human Needs
As members of the human race, we all seek to fulfill the same four core needs. What changes according to personality, context, age, and culture is the way we go about fulfilling these needs.
There are four needs common to all human beings. The need to feel:
• Safe and Secure
• Seen and Heard
• Appreciated and Rewarded
The needs are constant. It’s the way we go about fulfilling them that varies according to local customs, religions, traditions and individual preferences.
A young child may soothe herself and feel secure by holding on to her teddy bear. Her dad may feel safe because he has a job and a guaranteed pay-check.
An American girl may feel she belongs to a particular group because she wears a certain brand of jeans while another girl in a distant country may feel she belongs because of the way she dances.
Cultures are just different ways human groups strive to fulfill these core needs. Some have been in existence for thousands of years; others are very recent. A culture finds its expression in a shared language, share beliefs, common customs and rules, accepted practices and practices that are frowned upon.
When you look at cultures as different expressions of the same universal needs, you start looking at people in a different way. You start noticing what’s common rather than what’s different. You are more likely to get curious rather than judgmental.
I call this approach meeting people beyond cultures. When you live in this space, you are at home where ever you may be. You simply observe how the people around you go about fulfilling your each need and notice how you seek to fulfill them for yourself.
Take some time today to reflect on how you go about fulfilling each need. Make it a topic of conversation with the people you meet. For example, ask your friends, your colleagues, your children. How do you feel safe and secure? What makes you feel included?
Answers to these questions will reveal a rich landscape of wants, hopes and desires and may surprise you.