What is cultural humility


You may have heard the term “cultural humility,” being used in conversations and wondered “what on earth is that,?”. I was one of those people too, and was instructed in its usage a few weeks ago, by a staff member at Casa Alitas, an NGO that works with asylum seekers and refugees.

            As Christy from Casa Alitas pointed out, there are several elements to being “culturally humble,” which in other words means, to be aware of, and cognizant of who we are dealing with.  Another definition from the University of Oregon is helpful “Cultural humility involves an ongoing process of self-exploration and self-critique combined with a willingness to learn from others. It means entering a relationship with another person with the intention of honoring their beliefs, customs and values. It means acknowledging differences and accepting that person for who they are.”

Photo : El Angel, in Mexico City, taken by the author.

The presenter shared the five Rs, that I will share with you, too.

  1. Reflection – To reflect on our own privilege in many situations and to approach every situation with humility
  2. Respect – Treating everyone with respect
  3. Regard – Holding every person in the highest regard
  4. Relevance – Expecting this aspect of cultural humility to be relevant in each interaction
  5. Resilience – Consider how this encounter can enhance your own resiliency

            Whether it is dealing with adult learners, students or learners who may not have as strong English language skills as we’d like them to, it is important to remember this and demonstrate, every day, with each encounter that we truly value the other person and are not out there to short-change them.

            As I was looking into this topic, from a Higher ed perspective, I came across a list of resources that could be helpful.


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