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What Is Cultural Competency Training?

Having conversations about prejudice can allow people to identify the differences between their own culture and the culture of others.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Cultural competency training is education for people who interact with individuals from different cultures to allow them to communicate effectively and appropriately. Training courses for people from health care providers to businesspeople are available, and people can also obtain guidebooks and other resources for studying at home. People with cultural competency training are more employable in many sectors, and sometimes this training is required for people who want to work in certain environments.

The training includes overviews to familiarize people with their own culture and the differences between their culture and that of the people they will be interacting with. This can involve conversations about bias and prejudice so people can learn to identify these issues. During cultural competency training, people will also learn about cultural norms in different cultures so they know how to address people respectfully and are aware of issues they may need to integrate into their interactions. For example, in some cultures, patients may prefer examinations from doctors and nurses of their own gender.

Race, age, gender, religion, and cultural background can all be topics of discussion in cultural competency. White medical providers may learn about how to interact with Asian or black populations, for example, while Christian businesspeople might find it helpful to receive training about Islam before traveling in the Middle East. Cultural competency training can also cover special populations like migrant workers, gay men, people with disabilities, transsexual women, and so forth, allowing people to learn more about the people they work with.

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Effective cross-cultural communication includes respect for different cultures and an awareness of issues and differences. People without this training may try to impose cultural values and norms that do not fit. At best, they may alienate their clients and make them feel uncomfortable, and at worst, they may fail to provide adequate services. For instance, educators who are not aware of the home lives of their students may miss signs of abuse, or mistake something for abuse when it is simply a practice from a different culture.

Educators providing cultural competency training can travel to a workplace to lead workshops and courses. People can also attend trainings held at training centers or other facilities. During the training, people usually receive texts to read and may have assignments like homework, with the goal of getting them to engage with as much of the material as possible so they have a complete understanding. It is not uncommon to have representatives of a particular culture come into the training to allow people to interact with them and ask questions.

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