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Communications skills for thriving in a global world

By Jennifer Skuza

The first step to thriving in a global world may be letting go of the concept of "common sense".

Anytime I have said or heard "Use your common sense!" there was a hint of judgment in it. Well, common sense is really cultural sense, common only to those who share a cultural lens, core values and patterns of behavior.

Starting with that fundamental insight, there are endless possibilities in how you can work with young people to help them sort out their own viewpoints and those of others. We can guide young people to developing thinking habits that lean toward openness in getting to know new people, experiences and ideas and to create new connections among them. That is one step toward knowing how to thrive in a global world.

As you think about your role in preparing young people with a global mindset of cultural understanding, here are a few design ideas to consider in your programs:
  • Enrich program curriculum with robust educational materials that engage youth in real-world critical incidents and stories of intercultural understandings and misunderstandings so that young people can see cultural contexts and dynamics within them. Here are a few resources to check out: Teaching Tolerance and Media That Matters.
  • Create exercises where young people learn to observe others without judgment. By honing this skill youth build habits to study and discuss cultural points of view, get to know peers and their values, and learn how those values influence what they say and do. Here are some more resources to peruse: Self-science and Peace Corps curriculum called Building Bridges.
  • Help young people to recognize positive intentions instead of quickly jumping to negative conclusions. With that recognition, they learn to understand other perspectives and manage cultural expectations. Over time youth may build bridges and creatively harness the values and intentions of others in their lives.
  • Model how to leverage cultural differences and similarities as assets for more effective solutions. By developing that skill, youth learn to work collaboratively with each other, maximize relationships within a group, and improve their problem solving by involving others and finding solutions that benefit those around them.
You can play a role that helps youth to thrive in a global world with a cultural perspective that enables them to examine their everyday lives and help them to take action that leads toward positive change in the world. Essentially we are a composite of cultures that influence how we act and react. What might seem like common sense to one may seem unusual to another. It is important for youth to recognize that they are not always right and that the standards and values they use in their own life should not be imposed on others.

What ideas do you have for helping young people to thrive in a global world?

Jennifer A. Skuza, PhD, assistant dean

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

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  1. When I think of one of my favorite definitions of culture--"what everyone knows that everyone knows"--I think that it fits well with the need to understand common sense as culturally derived.
    Thanks, Jennifer, for putting us in touch with resources that help to develop the global mindset of young people--and older people too.

  2. Hi Heidi -
    Thanks for chiming in and sharing one of your favorite definitions of culture!

  3. Initially, I thought of bridging differences through language...learning a few words in another language is a nice, thoughtful start. However, I think this can also be a trap. Attempting to learn a few basic phrases may appear to be sufficient in bridging the communication gap, and it may help in certain circumstances, but needs to go further than that. Communication is a more, deeper understanding that requires disciplined patience.
    I especially like the part about creating spaces around judgement free discourse. Tough, but essential, and applicable in all settings and with all the different hats we wear each day.
    Thank you for your insight.

  4. Thank you Dr.Jennifer for your insight on global skills related to Youth Development.
    It is very hard to point out a concrete suggestion for young people to thrive. However, I strongly believe that education and only through education that young people can get skills and globally thrive. As a matter of fact, education is vital for all human being. It is really the spice of life. It will be essential to arm our young people with education if we want them to go smoothly from childhood to adulthood.
    I would also urge any parent I know to be aware of his/her child’s where about in his/her educational standard. To me, if communities/parents are not involved in young people’s lives, the nation will be helpless in the future.
    Jus to mention my own experience, had my parents were educated and known the value of education, I wouldn’t have waited this long to finish my degree.
    There is a saying in my Oromo culture : “ Mouse learns how to dig a hole from it’s mother”. Simply children follow their roll models.
    Check this link for the importance of education :WWW.21ST

  5. I particularly like how you bring up practice-related examples that we can use in our programs. I think the first two examples can be extremely useful for youth workers looking for ways to enhance the youth's global and cross cultural skills. And following from the comment before this one; I also believe that role modeling a global mind-set can be as effective in leading young people to develop cross-cultural and global communication skills.
    Thanks for an insightful and very useful post!

  6. HI Joshua -
    That is such a good point about "disciplined patience" in regard to the deeper understanding that comes with effective communication. I remember the personal examples you shared in your 2013 YELLO capnote that illustrated that point beautifully. I think it is important for all of us to reflect on those times when we didn't listen or practice patience when relating to others.
    Do you have any resources on creating spaces around judgement free discourse?
    Thanks - jennifer

  7. Hi Dagaga -
    It is good to hear from you. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and for emphasizing the importance of education in a young person's life.
    Like you I see education as one of the most important things in a person's life. I can tell that you think about support systems that help young people in their educational pursuits. In addition to role models, what other supports do you think are important to help young people get on (and stay on) on educational path?
    Thanks for sharing the web resource and the saying from you Oromo culture.

  8. Hi Josey -
    Yes - Daga's point about role modeling is an important one. As he suggests, it can start at home with how parents/guardians relate to their children and others in their lives and how they live their values. The household is an learning environment. Sometimes that point gets overlooked or taken for granted in our everyday routines.
    Positive role models possess qualities and affect us in a way that makes us want to be better people. Their actions can influence us greatly.
    Thanks for adding to the conversation.
    - jennifer

  9. Hi Dr. Jennifer,
    Here is what I think about Youth Education:
    For sure we all agree that education starts from home and I know all homes are not equally equipped with necessary materials and ideas. As primary teachers parents have unique ways of teaching their children that is what children bring to the school to share if their educators allow them. The other issue I can think of and also cannot live without it is financial freedom, which can support young people’s education. In a nation where few individuals control wealth it is obviously hard to support the needy and helpless to be educated. Therefore, financial availability is crucial to educate youth from lower socio-economic status. In fact I don’t see this problem in the West(US). The only problem we have here is about Immigrant Youth who have no any idea how to access to resources for education and I hope this will be solved gradually.
    Please read this Casey Family Program at this is about students from Foster Care.

  10. Hello Dagaga -
    Thanks for extending the conversation about other factors that influence the educational path of young people, Information access is crucial as young people and their families make plans for the future - especially financial resources and information on how to navigate higher education systems.
    I appreciate the resources that you have shared in this blog. Have a great week.


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