Strategies for Individuals

Becoming culturally competent, diverse and inclusive involves gaining knowledge about people who are different from you, examining one’s attitudes towards different cultures and people, and obtaining skills to provide services for all people. This section provides suggestions about how individuals can become more culturally competent, how they can embrace diversity and how they can practice inclusion.


1. Self-awareness and stimulus value

  • Individuals must become aware of their own values, biases, and stereotypes. By understanding themselves, one can increase their levels of comfort with individuals who differ in values.
  • Individuals should assess their own awareness of their cultural selves and strive to understand their own values, beliefs, and behaviors as a reflection of their culture.
  • What stereotypes, perceptions, and beliefs do we hold about culturally diverse groups that may hinder our ability to form a helpful and effective relationship?

2. Understanding the nature of discomfort and resistance

  • Frustrations while interacting with others may come from the inability to understand individuals’ styles of interacting, styles that are common in the individuals’ culture.
  • When experiencing feelings of discomfort or resistance, individuals should attend to several questions: What feeling am I experiencing? Why am I uncomfortable with this individual at this time? Is this individual doing something that I do not understand or value? What kinds of cultural differences are being portrayed? How can I use the discomfort to understand myself and the other individual as well to communicate more effectively?

3. Understanding others’ perspectives

  • If you know you’re going to be researching or interacting with people with unfamiliar backgrounds, seek cultural insight through journal articles and academic books.
  • One of the best ways to immerse yourself in another culture’s worldview is to learn a second language.
  • Arranging a research project or service learning experience where you work with people from a culture that’s unfamiliar to you is a great way to enhance your cultural competence. Depending on the kinds of cultural experiences you’re seeking, you may want to volunteer at community centers, religious institutions, or soup kitchens.
  • It’s also important to supplement work and volunteer experience with social interactions. Instead of solely interacting with members of diverse groups who are seeking help, get a fuller picture by interacting with them as peers at parties, religious services, and cultural events.


Portions of this section were adapted from the following article: Sue, S. (2006). Cultural competency: From philosophy to research and practice. Journal of Community Psychology, 34, , 237-245.