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Cultural Intelligence

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

What is CQ ?

We hear the words cultural intelligence (CQ) used a lot these days, but what exactly does it mean? On a basic level we can understand it involves being aware of the cultural influence that impacts our behaviors and the behaviors of others.


MARCH 13, 2023


Across the US alone there are numerous cultural differences based on region, state, and city. Around the world variations of thought and practice expand wide and far. CQ is knowing how another group of people think, what their values are, and how they see the world.

We must seek first to understand, and from there we learn to care.

How is CQ relevant to me?

Being unaware of numerous minor offenses to a certain culture then wondering why you are treated in return with rudeness doesn’t serve anyone well. Ignorance is not bliss. It could very well prevent important business deals, damage potential friendships, etc. Having more understanding of why people act the way they do diminishes the chances of misunderstanding and increases the opportunity for a positive meaningful result. Having a deeper sense of why people act and say the things they do gives you the ability to give the others empathy. This knowledge gives you power.

How do I develop CQ?

Learn, research, take a moment to observe the culture in question. If you plan to go abroad for work or leisure take some time to learn customs and expectations that culture has. You do not have to write a ten page academic paper, however doing some research will make a big difference. Learning about how another culture operates economically, their major customs, and patterns of thought, gives you the insight to conduct yourself appropriately with this CQ. The amount of conflict you can avoid by being able to predict a response from a person of another culture will only serve to benefit you and build relationships.

Understanding another person’s culture is honoring them and their culture. It's not cultural appropriation to want to engage in their culture when you seek to understand it. It isn’t something you can steal, however, especially for threatened cultures, it’s something you can keep alive. It shows that you took the time to acknowledge and study what means most to them and even if you make an error, knowing that you are trying to behave in a way that is respectful will take you a long way. Furthermore, it serves to enrich your own experience in that place because we all can enjoy a pretty thing, but we can truly appreciate something when we know the significance behind it. This cultural appreciation leads to cultural intelligence.

Thomas, David C, and Kerr Inkson. Cultural Intelligence Living and Working Globally. Second ed., Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2009.

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