Your personality determines how you WANT to behave, culture determines how you SHOULD behave.

To sum it up…

Your personality determines how you WANT to behave, culture determines how you SHOULD behave.

There is a lot of debate about where we can draw the line between personality and culture…but why do we have to separate them? We can argue about the fact that culture is stable within its environment and it is about groups of people, not individuals, although we must admit, culture affects behaviour just like your personality.

Today’s 21st century diverse employee workforce and customer base are no longer served by yesterday’s solutions. Most leadership and cross-cultural models were created before the internet, cheap flights, extremely well-connected Gen Y and globalisation have created new challenges….

When I talk to companies about cultural differences most people think about only different nationalities and they seem to think they are doing OK. When we go deeper and mention diversity, they seem to add the gender differences to it. As the conversation progresses we manage to add 6 to 8 different cultural groups they have and belong to at the same time: generation, profession, education, position within the company, department, etc…

These are all cultural groups with their own unwritten (or written) rules regarding how you SHOULD behave, what is accepted, what is strongly advised, what is tolerated and what is not.

In our previous article we said that cultural differences existed because people have different values and attitudes based on their own knowledge, experience and personality type…they can’t see the world from your perspective and their perception is their reality…yours is yours.


Once I was watching Pellegrino Ricardi’s talk about culture where he said:

 Culture is what is accepted and familiar.

Such a simple and practical definition. We could easily replace culture with the word normal.

Normal is what is accepted and familiar.

It does not make it right or wrong, just normal, familiar and accepted…BY US.

That is the key…just because something is normal to us, it does not mean it is normal (accepted and familiar) to others. Stereotypes exist because learning is emotional and when something surprises us (usually we get scared, shocked or sometimes very happy) we will definitely remember it. What is surprising? Most things that are not normal to us.

The purpose of Cultural Intelligence training is to understand this process and try to learn about the different ways of thinking and behaving so we can adapt our behaviour and create synergy instead of clashing.

People are complex, trying to understand them without a holistic approach can be inefficient and most certainly disrespectful.

According to the Dynamic Circle of Culture, Culture shapes Identity and Identity shapes Culture, so focusing on only one part and expecting to see the full picture and achieve engagement from your employees and clients is naive and expensive lesson to learn.

Globalisation has created new challenges and opportunities. By employing a diverse workforce you have an amazing potential to innovate, find better ways of working, BUT that can be the most painful and expensive liability in your company if it is not managed with Cultural Intelligence.

Cultural Intelligence is not just for big, multinational companies, but for everyone who is in contact with other people. 

Csaba Toth
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Csaba Toth

Founder at ICQ Global
Author of Uncommon Sense in Unusual Times, developer of the multi award-winning Global DISC model
Csaba Toth
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