International Marketing (Part 2)
(Last time, I wrote how the Internet has made us experience the richness of other culture without leaving our own homes. Today I will share with you how dealing with diversity can help us understand people who are different from us.)
Enjoying diversity comes very easy for me. I am fascinated in knowing people from different backgrounds. If one wants to be successful at any kind of international marketing, he/she must first and foremost enjoy diversity. The Internet has made our world smaller and people from what used to be faraway places can now be a part of one’s circle of influence.
My brother was handicapped. They say having a handicapped family member helps one be very comfortable in dealing with people who are different. It never occurred to me how some individuals struggle relating to people who are different until an experience with one of my sons brought this to light.
Our oldest son, Ian, is in 5th grade this year. He is profoundly deaf and wears bilateral cochlear implants. The implants are miraculous. The technology has opened up the hearing world to Ian, something that would not have been possible in the past. Ian has beautiful speech. He interacts just like any other 5th grader. You would not even know he was deaf. He certainly doesn’t think he is, except when he wants to tune me out or pretend he did not hear a request to do something. He has been successfully mainstreamed in our parish Catholic school since kindergarten.
When Ian was in kindergarten, I approached the school about teaching the kids in his grade sign language. Ian didn’t use sign language that much except for the times when he was unable to wear his cochlear implants, such as when swimming or when he had taken them off for the day. I wanted his peers to be able to communicate with him in sign when necessary. I would meet with all of the kids for a 30-minute sign language class each month.
From time to time, I would help explain to the kids how Ian’s equipments worked. He was even re-implanted one year and we discussed the upcoming surgery and recovery process. I tried to make the kids feel comfortable asking me as many questions as they needed to ask.
Over the years, I started to notice some things that made me think.
For the first four years of teaching the class, it seems the kids would continue to ask similar questions about Ian and his situation. I found it a little odd that the kids—both in class and even as guests at our home—would ask me questions about Ian’s situation instead of asking him directly when he was right next to me. Even in the third, fourth, or fifth year that I was teaching the class, I would still get occasional questions from kids who had been with Ian the entire time.
I noticed certain kids were more comfortable inquiring; others I could tell were more distant and less comfortable with the topic or with Ian. But those kids were somewhat of a captive audience. With time, I could see them gradually feeling more relaxed. Often, the kids who seemed more challenged getting used to Ian with his differences had parents who exhibited similar characteristics.
Now I can say I see that all of the kids in Ian’s class are completely comfortable with Ian and treat him like anyone else. I believe I witnessed a beautiful process unfold as a side benefit of wanting the kids to learn sign language.
In the context of the sign language class and the experience of having a deaf classmate, each of the kids, in their own time and in their individual way, learned to be comfortable with the difference. It seemed that having an open forum and putting the kids together side-by-side, day-by-day, gradually broke down the barriers.
This process need not be limited to 5th graders who have a deaf classmate. The simple principle of being open and honest about questions while continuing to engage the other party rather than segregate and separate them can go a long way to increase one’s comfort in dealing with people who are different.
Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip: Show others how important and dignified they are by learning more about what made them different from you through respectful inquiry.