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According to the American Psychological Association (2003), the first guideline states that, “Psychologists are encouraged to recognize that, as cultural beings, they may hold attitudes and beliefs that can detrimentally influence their perceptions of and interactions with individuals who are ethnically and racially different from themselves” (p. 380).
Guideline 1 is all about awareness. Multicultural awareness is a crucial issue when new psychologists are trained. It entails knowledge of assumptions, biases and values that are embedded in the culture of the trainee. It is important in that it enables the trainees to learn how their own cultural background affects their attitude and the way they behave.
This awareness is developed by ensuring that the trainees develop an open approach, are curious about other culture and have a non-defensive attitude. Both the trainers and the trainees ought to be apt and comfortable in gaining knowledge about the vast differences that the society presents. They are supposed to be in a position to handle situations where there is conflict in interest and give a non-biased verdict on the same (American Psychological Association, 2003).
In schools and places of work, people from different culture find themselves together. These people may be forced to work or compete with one another. It is crucial that an individual understand the culture of other people if they are to work together. Imagine a psychologist who is sexually straight and has always known that gay people are a disgrace to the society. Such a psychologist has a negative attitude toward gay people. Suppose he is a counselor and is supposed to advise a gay person.
The psychologist in this case cannot effectively issue an advice that would be considerate to this person’s culture. It is therefore crucial that the psychologist understand the culture related to gays and know the history behind this person’s choice. This awareness by the psychologist is very important and may even help him advise the individual accordingly (Pedersen, 2002).
According to the American Psychological Association (2003), the second guideline states that, “Psychologists are encouraged to recognize the importance of multicultural sensitivity/responsiveness, knowledge, and understanding about ethnically and racially different individuals” (p. 380).
The second guideline is all about knowledge. It lays emphasis on the importance of multicultural knowledge to a psychologist. Multicultural knowledge entails studying and looking for information about cultures, experiences of other people within the society and world views. Any society has a variety of cultures. It is crucial that the psychologist have adequate information on the reasons behind every group’s beliefs and culture.
Other than knowledge of the culture, psychologists ought to have exact information on discrimination and barriers as is in other cultures. Psychologists must engage themselves in active research about the different cultures in their environment and keep tabs on current news regarding the same. A curiosity must be developed by the trainee as well as zeal to learn what others practice and believe in. This should automatically be demonstrated by asking questions that are meaningful (Linn, 2008).
Having the knowledge and understanding people from the available diverse culture is important to any psychologist. A good example is the migration of people into the US to achieve the American dream. A psychologist should have all information about the culture of these people. This aids in positive interaction with them. Once all that knowledge is within a psychologist’s fingertips, understanding their actions and behavior is automatic.
There will not be any bias or prejudice on the side of the psychologist if he has adequate information about diverse cultural groups. In the work place, team building is based on interaction with members from different cultures. If people do not have adequate information about the culture of their colleagues, then producing results would not be possible.
Culturally Different People and I
I have always had negative perception about gays and lesbians within the society. My day to day encounters towards this category of people since childhood has been negative. Majority of the religious groups in existence have condemned the culture of homosexuality. Nevertheless, it has always been the basis for mockery in institutions.
Homosexuality according to me is against the nature of our very own existence. I find it difficult interacting with gay people and lesbians because I feel uncomfortable in their presence. This has been created by my perception and past experience regarding the same. It is evident from this scenario that my beliefs and perception has influenced the way I interact with these people.
I believe I do not have adequate knowledge and information about culturally different people. Their values and practices turn me away from being curious towards them. The society that I am in does not provide any information that can make me be positive about them. Instead, the information available within the society makes them to be discriminated upon.
Having knowledge and information about culturally different people is the first step to understanding them. I have however started to take time to learn more about culturally different people, especially those that I often interact with.
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Culturally different people face a lot if challenges in the society. One such challenge is acceptance. They lack the feeling of acceptance within their community. Interacting with them can help in gaining more information about their background. A negative aspect of interacting with gay people is that they might convert you to be one of them. This issue should thus be approached with a lot of caution.
My strength in interacting with people in general is that I am talkative and very social. I may feel uncomfortable in the presence of culturally different people, but I am not shy. This side of me has been and is of great help in meeting and getting to know individuals who are different from me.
I am however not good at hiding discomfort that I may feel in the presence of these people. I may engage in a conversation with them but my body language or facial expression will let me down. In my opinion, the best way of dealing with this is to develop a positive attitude towards culturally different people. This I will do by looking at their importance within the society and doing research on their background.
American Psychological Association. (2003). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for Psychologists. American Psychologist, 58(5), 377-402.
Linn, A. S. (2008). Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
Pedersen, P. (2002). Counseling Across Cultures. New York: Sage.