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Useful Information or Stereotyping?

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 12

Sometimes there seems to be a fine line between providing useful information and using stereotypes to describe groups of people. We think certain kinds of information can be helpful, especially if it is used to make you more respectful and responsive to others.

For example, you may have heard that the French are unfriendly towards American tourists, particularly those who don't speak French. Because we heard this, before a recent trip to Paris, we started learning a few French phrases. The result? Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. We were glad to have had this useful information about the French. It enabled us to respond positively and helped us communicate more effectively.

If you were visiting America for the first time, would it be useful to know that people in New York City often speak in a rapid pace while many Southerners speak more slowly and with a "Southern drawl?" Would it be useful to know that people in Boston typically dress more formally than in Malibu?

In the same vein, when interviewing someone in a wheelchair, it would be useful to know it is considered good etiquette to be on the same eye level with the applicant if the conversation lasts more than a couple of minutes.

In the same way, learning about different cultures is not stereotyping when it helps you to be a more effective manager. Useful information about cultural differences enables you to adapt your style to each individual to get maximum results.