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Cultural Awareness through
Self-Reflection
PlamenMakariev,SofiaUniversity
Sofia,Bulgaria
Purposeandlearningobjectives
To promote self-reflection in each participant, making their cultural identity more flexible
and open to rational control so that they can interact more harmoniously with people of other
cultures
Self-reflection is necessary for cultural relativism and awareness.
It mentally distances a
person from the dynamics of his or her own personality. This enables the participant to see
his or her knowledge, values, attitudes, habits, and other personality traits as features that he
or she can more or less rationally control, rather than as predetermining behavior. Without
self-reflection at some basic, even intuitive level, one remains firmly stuck in the circum-
stances of one’s own culture and is unable to understand or come to terms with alternative
ways of life or conflicting values. Consequently, he or she is not able to communicate effec-
tively with people of other cultures.
Self-reflection is critical to long-term, close economic cooperation (where merely avoiding
intercultural misunderstandings does not suffice). It will help build a positive attitude toward
others, which is especially important when people from cultures with a long record of mutual
antagonism must work together.
Targetaudience
This activity is intended to help corporate international teams work regionally with individu-
als from neighboring countries. It will be especially useful in regions such as Southeastern
Europe, where cultural differences have long made contact problematic. It can also be used to
train personnel in “first-world” countries who work in firms that employ large numbers of
“guest workers” from third-world countries. It works best in groups of 10 to 15 participants.
Time
60 minutes
P. Makariev, “Philosophical Problems of Intercultural Education.” In Andonov, A. and Makariev, P. (eds.),
Intercultural Education: Studies and Exercises. Sofia, Minerva, 1997.
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Materials
Copies of Handout 1, “Most-Valued Personality Qualities,” and Handout 2, “Five
Qualities You Would Most Like to Possess”
Flipchart (optional)
Procedure
1. Give each participant one copy each of Handout 1 and Handout 2, and ask them to jot
down the five qualities of their personality that they most value on Handout 1. You can
vary the number for the sake of time or in response to the nature of the group. However, if
the number is too small, it can weaken the discussion; if it is too large, the discussion can
lose focus.
2. After participants complete this initial task, collect the completed handout from each par-
ticipant so that you can bring up for discussion any of the specific choices that participants
have made.
3. Then lead a three-part discussion. Start each part by asking the group one of the questions
below. It might also help to write the question on a flipchart or present it on an overhead
slide.
Question 1: What would make you compromise or act contrary to this par-
ticular [selected by the trainer] aspect of your personality?
Your task as trainer is to challenge the relationship of the quality chosen to the identity of
the participant. What would it take, for example, for this person to act contrary to one of
his or her most valued qualities? You can do this best by pointing to hypothetical cases
that manifest the quality under discussion but that contradict a universally recognized
norm or go against the person’s vital interests. Here are some examples:

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