Cultivating Cultural Competency

The following words and phrases are defined as used in the “Cultivating Cultural Competency” Course. With time and through interactions, the connotation or usage of these words and phrases may change.


Ableism: Discrimination based on mental or physical ability.

Advising: Proceeding to give advice to the speaker without clearly understanding what is being said or allowing the speaker to finish speaking. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.

Ageism: Discrimination based on the age of a group or individual.


Being right: The attitudes and actions of a person who will go to any length to avoid seeing him or herself as being wrong. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.

Biases: (Bias, prejudice, or preconception) A partiality towards someone or something that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation.

Bisexual: Individuals sexually attracted to both men and women. 

Body image: The subjective concept of one's physical appearance based on beliefs, self-observation, and the reactions of others.

Boomers: (Baby Boomers) A generation or cultural group whose members were born between 1945 and 1964.


Clarifying statements: Statements used to understand the meaning of a speaker. The approach is designed to honor one’s own rights and dignity without violating the rights and dignity of others

Class: Category divisions based on social or economic status; members of a class are theoretically assumed to possess similar cultural, political and economic characteristics and principles.

Classism: Discrimination based on class.  

Comparing: The act of matching the experience of the speaker with that of your own, instead of only listening and seeking to understand. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.

Core competency: A skill that is essential to an organization or position, and necessary for employees to possess and demonstrate. 

Cultural Groups: Categorization of groups based on similar life-defining events and/or experiences. e.g., Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters. (See definitions of each)

Culture: Shared knowledge and learned patterns of behavior and information used by a group to generate meaning among its members; conscious and/or unconscious ways of life for people, including attitudes, values, behavior, and material things. 

Culture shock: A jarring experience with a new culture and/or language, accentuating differences.


Deceptive Bias: Exemplifying preconceived notions or prejudice toward those who differ from us. This bias is demonstrated by saying what seems to be the right thing by using “politically correct” language or code words, such as RKO’s—“Right Kind Of” people, NTO-- “Now There’s One,”  or “you people”, referring to someone who is different and whose presence is not wanted.

Derailing: The act of changing the subject while someone is speaking in order to prevent the person from finishing his/her thought. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.

Diasporas: A historical dispersion of a group of people deriving from similar origins. e.g. The African Diaspora includes Africans, African Americans, Afro-  Caribbean, Afro-Russians, Black Brazilians, Afro Latinos etc.

Dreaming: The act of drifting into your own thoughts while someone is speaking to you, rather than listening. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.


Economic status: The level of income or buying power.  

Empathetic listening: To listen carefully to the speaker and endeavor to understand by putting yourself “in the shoes” of another.

Ethnicity: A quality assigned to a specific group of people historically connected by a common heritage or culture.

“External” customers: Individuals/groups who seek services from the courts, as distinguished from “internal” customers who are staff members or co-workers.


Feminism: Doctrine/movement advocating equal rights, status and treatment of women

Filtering: A practice or act of listening to what you want to hear, or what fits for you rather than what is being said. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.



Gender: The term is used in reference to social or cultural categories while sex is used in reference to biological categories. e.g., gender gap.

Geographic origin: Refers to place of birth.

Glass ceiling: A term used to refer to an imaginary ceiling defining the maximum position and/or salary allowed without any chance of further promotion or advancement within an employment scenario.


Hispanic: Referring to Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres (Europe and Latin America) and emphasizing the common denominator of language among communities that may have little else in common.

Hispanic American: Individuals living in the United States with ancestry from Spanish-speaking countries.  


Identifying: The act of relating everything the speaker says back to your experience instead of listening to what the speaker is saying. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.

“Internal” customers: Staff members or co-workers of an organization.

Interpretation: The process or act of explaining the meaning to something that is seen, heard or experienced, as distinguished from “observation”, which describes what is seen or what a camera would “see”. 


Jew(s): Identification based on a background of shared historical experience and/or religious heritage (Judaism). Membership is through birth or conversion. Jews can be understood in both ethnic and religious terms.

Judging: An act of characterizing a person before they have finished speaking and closing your mind to the message they are trying to convey. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.


Knowing others: A discovery process of finding out what you don’t know about others who differ from you by asking questions, and being open to their responses.

Knowing the Issues: A discovery process of understanding an issue or a problem, and working through the issue or source of conflict with co-workers or different groups.  


Latina:  A woman of Latin American descent.

Latino: A man of Latin American descent


Mind reading: The act of trying to discern another's thoughts by asking yourself “What does this person really mean by that?”. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.

Multiculturalism: The practice of acknowledging and respecting the various cultures, religions, races, ethnicities, attributes and opinions in an environment.


Nexters: A cultural group whose members were born between 1984 and 2004.


Observation: The act of describing what is seen without adding one’s own interpretation.

Oriental: A term, meaning “eastern”, generally used by Europeans to describe objects, cuisine, or medicine derived from Asian nations. This term is conspicuously Eurocentric, as "the East" is constructed as being opposed to a fixed reference point, "the West," or Western Europe. Asian or Asian American is the preferred terminology to describe persons native to Asia or descended from an Asian people.


Passive bias: Accepting or submitting without resistance or objection to overt bias. e.g., an ethnic joke in your workplace or derogatory terms used to describe or identify a person. 

People of color or persons of color: A term used to describe all non-white racial or ethnic groups.

Placating: The act of seeking approval by agreeing with everything a person says. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.

Proversity: Synthesis of Progressive and Diversity, which means progrssive diversity. The product of bringing together individuals who appear different, but who have many common characteristics; looking at what people have in common rather than how they differ.




Race: Classification of humans based on genetic characteristics. Classification of people based on common nationality, history, or experiences.

Racism: Discrimination against a person or group based on race.

Reflecting: Carefully considering or thinking seriously about what a speaker has said by restating the core meaning of his or her comments.

Rehearsing: Planning what you will say next while another person is speaking, rather than listening and paying attention to what the person is saying. One of the blocks to cultural competency.


Sex: A system of classification based on biological and physical differences in terms of reproductive function.

Sexual orientation: The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of either the opposite or the same sex.

Sizeism: The practice of discriminating against a person based on the size of the person’s body.

Sparring: The act of arguing and debating every point about a topic, either in anger or for fun, rather than listening to and understanding the speaker. One of the blocks to cultivating cultural competency.

Stereotype: A negative generalization or oversimplification of the “essence” of a whole group of people.


T.R.A.C.: (T: Trust, R: Respect, A: Affect, and C: Confidence) A relationship building framework designed to help learners of cultural competency build and maintain relationships..

Trigger: A behavior that provokes or incites anger or frustration in a person.

Triggering event: An incident that provokes anger, aggression, or resentment, potentially leading to an unconsidered emotional response or counter-attack.



Values/beliefs: Principles, standards, or qualities considered worthwhile or desirable by the person or group that holds them.       

Veterans: A cultural group whose members share the common experience of having served in military combat.




Xers: A cultural group whose members were born between 1965 and 1984, as differentiated from Boomers and Nexters.