As a community support worker (CSW), you may find yourself working with many people from diverse cultural backgrounds. As such, cultural awareness is something that should permeate your everyday actions with the people you work with, especially due to the supportive and caring nature of the role.
Culture is constituted by learned values and beliefs that influence a person’s way of life, from their thinking to their actions, as well as the way they may perceive and interact with you as a CSW. Various cultural views can affect communication norms, the role of family in decision-making, and perceptions of illness and death, along with the value of different types of therapy.
Most often, these behaviors are automatic and subconscious, so it is up to you as a CSW to approach them sensitively in order to reach mutual understanding about the optimal provision of care. To find out a few tips on how to foster such cultural sensitivity, keep reading.
Community Support Worker School is a Great Time to Broaden Your Own Cultural Understanding
One of the first steps you can take in fostering your cultural sensitivity during community support worker training is to actively self-reflect on your own culture, something you can do on your own and with the help of others, such as your classmates and instructors. Understanding what your particular beliefs and values are and where they come from will help you identify situations where you may be reacting with bias based on your cultural background.
The process of seeking to understand yourself will also assist you with how you later approach getting to know someone else’s culture. Knowing the cultural “why” behind the ways you think, act, and react will lead you to be more sensitive as to the behaviors of other people, even when they may initially take you by surprise. In this way, you will be better able to work with others to get to the root of potential misunderstandings.
Remember That Matters of Culture Should Not Be Generalized
As you learn more about your own culture and those of others, you should remember to always keep an open mind and remain nonjudgmental. Generalizing about all members of a certain culture based on one particular scenario could lead to misinterpretation.
Each individual is unique, and may perceive their culture in different ways to others with similar backgrounds. Perception and expression of culture are influenced by many things such as age, gender, ethnicity, and religion, and also aspects very unique to each person, including past experiences, strengths, and weaknesses. Moreover, culture is dynamic and may change in various ways over time. As such, there is no single correct approach to individuals with similar cultural backgrounds, and stereotyping within cultures should be avoided.
Developing Cultural Sensitivity is a Lifelong, Inquisitive Learning Process
Becoming culturally sensitive is an ongoing learning process, one that will continue long after you graduate from community support worker school. The best advice is to always keep an inquisitive attitude, no matter who you are working with.
To remain guarded against mistakes, be sensitive to body language and matters of power, trust, and respect, and don’t forget to remain open-minded. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for clarifications when necessary to confirm your impressions. In some cultures nodding the head actually means no, so you never know where a potential cultural misunderstanding might be lurking! By asking culturally relevant questions, and thus broadening your cultural understanding, you will progressively increase your cultural sensitivity to others and gain a greater understanding of yourself.
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