By Dianne Hofner Saphiere, Barbara F. Schaetti, and Heather Robinson

A successful trainer, coach, or facilitator in an intercultural context accounts for at least three dynamics simultaneously:

  1. the external realities of cultural difference: the values, beliefs, and personal cultural sense that show up in the given interaction,
  2. the internal realities of each person’s self-reflexivity: the extent to which the people involved are able to show up in the present moment with mindfulness and creativity, and
  3. the cognitive capacity each person has for dealing with difference.

Successful trainers, coaches, and facilitators must be ready to account for these dynamics both within themselves and within their participants, and they must be ready to help everyone involved (themselves as well as participants) take their next steps in learning to engage these dynamics with increasing skill. Intercultural competence also requires ongoing, structured practice.

This is a complex, some might say juicy, mandate!

We propose in this short paper that this mandate can be successfully accomplished through the interweaving of three powerful intercultural tools: Cultural Detective (CD), Personal Leadership (PL), and either the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) or the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC). The first two are state-of-the-art processes for building skills. Most serendipitously, they complement one another in a way that, when used together, allows each to bring out the best in the other; the combination encourages best practice of both tools. The third and fourth are developmental scales along which progress can be tracked. They gauge development of intercultural sensitivity, while Cultural Detective and Personal Leadership help us develop intercultural competence. The graphic below illustrates how the three tools interface, using the DMIS for purposes of illustration.

CDPL DMIS cropped
©2010 Dianne Hofner Saphiere, Barbara F. Schaetti, and Heather Robinson. All rights reserved.

When considering the graphic, it is important to note that Cultural Detective and Personal Leadership are both holistic processes and that the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity is a linear one. Combining linear and holistic approaches can be tricky. There is a tendency, at times perhaps even a necessity, to “break apart” distinct elements of the holistic models so as to correlate them with specific stages of the linear. Indeed, that is what we are presenting in the graphic below. In practice, however, such a “breaking apart” of the core elements of CD and PL must be taken lightly. The graphic is not intended to imply that someone at a specific stage of the DMIS would engage only the correlated elements of the CD and PL processes. Rather, those correlated elements are the “flash points” or points of growth and challenge for the practitioner, and potentially provide a point of entry into the models for people at the respective DMIS stage. As holistic methods, however, and regardless of practitioners’ DMIS stage, Cultural Detective and Personal Leadership are always used in their entirety.

Let us now look at the graphic and deconstruct what we intend for it to communicate.

Delineating the graphic’s core elements

The “double helix” is comprised of two vertical strands, one representing the methodology of Cultural Detective and the other representing the methodology of Personal Leadership. Both these methodologies have a long history of supporting their practitioners in improving intercultural competence.

As the vertical strands of the double helix wind around one another, openings are created. The first five stages of the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity are sequentially represented in the five openings, from least sensitive (Denial) at the bottom of the graphic to most sensitive (Adaptation) at the top. Preliminary results from research currently underway suggest that individual practice of either the CD or PL methodologies facilitates a person’s development of intercultural sensitivity. We posit here, as demonstrated by the weaving together of the two vertical strands, that an integrated practice of the CD and PL methodologies can exponentially increase that development.

Let’s look again at the graphic. Each opening created by the interweaving vertical strands of CD and PL practice contains a “moebius strip,” on each of which are written two phrases. The phrase beginning top left in each opening is sequenced from the CD methodology; the phrase beginning bottom left in each opening is sequenced from PL. The phrases on each moebius strip represent the complementary aspects of the two methodologies: where they meet in their respective foci, and where they serve to reinforce one another in best practice. They also represent the kind of challenge/support required by someone at the given DMIS stage to advance towards the next. The CD and PL practices reinforce one another in a holistic way, building and growing practitioners’ competence along the developmental model of the DMIS.

Denial. The entry point into CD is noticing that one is having a real-life critical incident. Similarly, the entry point into the practice of PL is to Recognize “Something’s Up.

To move from Denial to Defense, one needs to be able to perceive difference. CD and PL help practitioners do so, invigorating the notion of ‘difference’ as a cognitive and experiential lens, and thus helping practitioners take the first step in developing intercultural sensitivity.

Defense. Once a situation is identified, completing the CD Worksheet requires practitioners to describe the Words and Actions of those involved. Similarly, the Critical Moment Dialogue, PL’s core process technology, requires practitioners to objectively describe their Something’s Up moment.

To move from Defense to Minimization, one needs to be able to describe difference as neutrally as possible, filtering out culture-bound interpretation or evaluation. CD and PL help practitioners learn to do this, thus helping them move out of ascription and into curiosity.

Minimization. The CD Worksheet asks practitioners to conceive of the Values, Beliefs, and Personal Cultural Sense that might underly the Words and Actions earlier described. Similarly, the Critical Moment Dialogue guides practitioners in the deconstruction of their Something’s Up moments by engaging them in the six practices of Personal Leadership; questions associated with each practice invoke a quality of inquiry that digs deeply for motivation, expectation, and the possibility of not-knowing.

To move from Minimization to Acceptance, one needs to open to relationships wherein self and other are culturally different, and wherein people may have substantially different motivations. CD and PL each provide mechanisms to help practitioners achieve this opening. CD does so through its presentation of cultural and topic-specific Value Lenses, through its Self Discovery package, and by comparing and contrasting values on the Worksheet. PL brings forth this opening by focusing practitioners on their own cultural programming and providing a framework for the deconstruction and honest engagement of personal cultural motivations.

Acceptance. The bottom portion of the CD Worksheet is focused on creating or discerning ways to Bridge the gap between people’s differing Values, Beliefs, and Personal Cultural Sense, by building on similarities and leveraging differences for added value. Similarly, once PL’s practices and the Critical Moment Dialogue have helped practitioners disentangle from their own cultural programming, the focus is on Discerning Right Action.

To move from Acceptance to Adaptation, one needs to commit to that moment’s unique best practice. Neither CD nor PL are prescriptive; both assert that action (or potentially, non-action) can and must be taken, to the best of one’s ability, to meet the unique dynamics of the current situation.

Adaptation. Both CD and PL emphasize the ongoing nature of intercultural practice. The CD Model and Worksheet are intended to be used regularly, in varied scenarios, for onging structured learning and development. PL’s practices are life practices, and practitioners come to realize that every taking of Right Action inevitably leads again to another opportunity to Recognize Something’s Up. Both CD and PL emphasize that being effective in intercultural contexts is not, per se, something one ever finally achieves, but is, rather, a life orientation or ongoing practice.

To move from Adaptation to Integration, one needs to develop a quality of belonging that is rooted in multicultural or intercultural identity. Integration is distinct from the other DMIS stages in that its development is correlated very directly to biography. In other words, it is impossible to achieve Integration without significant personal immersion into at least two distinct cultural traditions, such that one’s belonging becomes rooted in each and/or in the experience of moving between.

Integration. Integration is not deemed necessary for intercultural competence and so is not represented on the graphic below. For people with the necessary biography, however, Integration manifests in experience as marginality (a feeling of being outside the cultural mainstream). On one end of the continuum (encapsulated), the marginality may give a sense of being trapped or at home nowhere. On the other end (constructive), it may give a sense of being free or at home, at least partially, everywhere. Cultural Detective Blended Culture, a package within the CD series, provides an articulation of five core values that motivate constructive marginals. People more clearly rooted in singular cultural biographies can use the package to better understand their marginal friends, neighbors, and colleagues. In its turn, PL offers practitioners in Integration an ongoing process for negotiating among competing cultural values – a negotiation which lies at the heart of the Integration stage. As such PL provides very direct support for encapsulated marginals seeking to become constructive in their internalized experience of difference.

What is perhaps most exciting about the moebius strips in the graphic is that they identify the ways in which the various stages of the CD and PL methodologies come together to offer the necessary combination of challenge and support at the different stages of the DMIS – the alchemical edge necessary for transformation. As we have said, practicing both methods together brings out the best practice of each.

Those in Defense, for example, are challenged to not just get angry but to actually articulate the differences they are experiencing. The CD and PL worksheets support practitioners in this by including the call to description in their respective processes. It is clear from the worksheets that everyone needs to be able to describe rather than ascribe, and thus to move into curiosity.

Similarly, people in Minimization are challenged by being asked to consider their own cultural programming. The CD and PL worksheets (and the CD Values Lenses) support practitioners in self-discovery by asking them to identify and articulate their values, expectations, and assumptions – and so to begin to see that not everyone holds the same. Similar conditions of challenge/support are also provided through the CD and PL methodologies at each of the other stages of the DMIS.

This is not to say that someone in Defense is only responsible for using the early stages of the methodologies, nor that someone in Acceptance is encouraged to jump straight to defining Cultural Bridges and Discerning Right Action. As we specified at the beginning of this paper, for the methodologies to actually augment intercultural competence, they must be used in their entireties.

The conditions of challenge/support, however, highlight where various participants will find their generative edge. Facilitators will be able to assess at what stages of the methodologies to place process emphasis, where to anticipate participant uncertainty and resistance, where to anticipate that participants will come alive in the learning process and be drawn into new awareness. Users at all developmental stages will resonate and learn from both methodologies, yet will find support and challenge in different places and in different ways.

Why both CD and PL?

How do CD and PL work together to create this opportunity for exponential development along the DMIS? Why not choose a single methodology rather than weave the two together?

Let’s consider a reality confronting the two methodologies: each method has been known to be misused, or at least used in such a way that practitioners miss the full potential it offers them.

• CD practitioners have been known to limit their focus to the cultural other, forgetting to take account of how their own cultural frames of reference are influencing the situation. Unless they attend first, or at least simultaneously, to their own cultural programming, they may never open to the full possibility of what the CD methodology can offer. Their practice risks staying superficial, their cultural bridges a regurgitation of old habits.

• PL practitioners have been known to limit their focus to internal deconstruction, forgetting to bring into account broader cognitive understanding. Unless they consider the contribution of research and past practice to the present moment, they may never trust the quality of discernment that the PL methodology can offer. Their practice risks staying superficial, their discernment of right action more a search for feel-good experience.

In both instances, the true transformative potential of each methodology is lost. This is perhaps especially true for new practitioners in the earlier stages of the DMIS. When the two methodologies are woven together, however, used as integrated strands to a larger whole, each calls forth the best practice in the other.

This combined method is called EPIC: Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence. It has been used successfully in large multinationals, an international school, and other venues. It is available for you to use with your students and clients under license. Learners show incredibly speedy improvement of intercultural competence when using the method as an ongoing practice. Contact , or to learn more.

©2010 & 2014 Dianne Hofner Saphiere, Barbara F. Schaetti, and Heather Robinson. All rights reserved.