The Culture Bump Approach

Learn more about the approach and how to connect to others beyond the cultural differences

What is a Culture Bump?

When two cultural expectations "bump" into each other, it causes a sense of disconnection and “otherness” between the two parties.

Simply put, culture bumps are cultural differences. More specifically, “culture bumps” are the phenomena that occur when individuals with different cultural expectations “bump” into each other, causing a sense of disconnection and “otherness” between the two parties. Culture in this term applies to any type of difference - gender, ethnicity, age, religion, profession, etc.

This sense of disconnection and difference occurs because of the brain's natural way of processing information in the world around it. People naturally expect others to behave a certain way according to their cultural understanding, and when the other person does something they do not expect, there is a sudden realization that the other person is different from themselves.

How do people normally try to resolve a culture bump?

People typically feel a need to resolve the disconnection and intuitively assume that understanding the motivation of the other person will alleviate the disconnect. They are left asking themselves, "Why did they refuse to answer that question, why did they look upset when I said that, etc?" They then often guess why the other person acted the way they did, leading to assumptions like, “They are probably just being polite in their own way,” or "That's just the way THEY are." Less often, they may ask the other individual(s) about their intention or do research as to what certain actions mean in other cultures.

These "why" questions are infused with a wide variety of emotions in people. They can feel surprised, embarrassed, uncomfortable, angry, disrespected, delighted and inferior or superior, etc. Because these emotional responses to culture bumps are largely unconscious or unacknowledged, they reinforce the sense of distance. For example, even though someone may not realize that the other’s actions made them feel disrespected, that emotion still impacts their perception of the other person’s intentions and character. It may cause them to feel distant from the other person because of the lingering, yet unconscious feelings.

Regardless of whether the individual consciously or unconsciously follows this natural thought pattern, research shows that it is usually insufficient to fully resolve the break in a human bond. A sense of "being different" not only remains, but is heightened and confirmed.

The brain tries to satisfy the mental disconnection through obtaining knowledge about the other's intentions, but the emotions tend to go unnoticed.

What needs to happen to resolve a culture bump?

Simply knowing "Why do they do that" only satisfies a rational need while the emotional needs coming from a culture bump are not repaired. The emotional rupture can be addressed by self-reflection. This then leads to a new awareness of one's own culture as well as the other culture.

Until the term, Culture Bump, was coined in 1978 by Dr. Carol Archer, few languages, if any, had an actual word to describe this phenomenon. Since that time, she and others have continued to research what happens during these occurrences and how to manage them effectively.

Their research suggests that the sense of disconnection and distance that occurs as a result of a culture bump is simultaneously rational and emotional - although we humans consciously experience the disconnect as "not knowing what is going on". By asking "why" the other did what they did, people can relieve only the rational break. In order to relieve the emotional and relational break, they must engage in a counter-intuitive response of self-reflection.

This self-reflection also reveals one's unconsciousness about their own culture. In fact, it is only through self-reflection that people can truly understand the depth of their own cultural identity. Therefore, the theory and methodology which has emerged from giving a name to this universal phenomenon has led to the creation of the Culture Bump Approach. This Approach offers a specific process to consistently connect to one another in spite of our differences, and a much deeper understanding of one's own culture.

How does the Culture Bump Approach work to resolve the disconnection and distance?

The Culture Bump Approach consists of an Eight Step Protocol that leads to the development of four basic skill sets. When a person uses the 8 steps repeatedly whenever noticing a culture bump, they begin to develop skills that can be used anytime to alleviate breaks in relationships caused by differences. In addition, while these skill sets are utilized in resolving any type of disconnect, they are simultaneously increasing self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

1. Identify the culture bump

2. Manage one’s emotions

3. Learn one’s own expectations and identify the meaning of those expectations

4. Connect by conversing about universal qualities

How does the Culture Bump Approach work?

The Culture Bump Approach uses an 8 Step Protocol to help people move through the four necessary actions to rebuild connection.

In order to help people develop the skills above, Culture Bump has developed an 8 step protocol which breaks down the four necessary actions into bite sized pieces strategically placed in a research-proven process.

The skill sets automatically emerge as a result of the eight step protocol.

The Culture Bump Steps are:

1. Pinpoint the culture bump

2. Describe what the Culture Bumper(s) did

3. Describe what you did

4. List the emotions you felt at that moment

5. Find the universal situation

6. Describe what you would do or expect others to do in that universal situation

7. List the qualities you feel that action demonstrates

8. Ask or think about how those qualities are demonstrated by other people such as the Culture Bumper(s)

(1-3) The first three steps help people take a situation and identify the culture bump that happened as well as everyone’s roles within the situation.

(4) The fourth step helps people step back from the emotions they feel toward the situation and the other people.

(5-7) The fifth through the seventh steps help people clarify what they had expected in that type of situation and explore the different qualities being communicated when they act in the way they expect.

(8) The eighth step uses the information discovered in the other steps as a platform to have a conversation with the other person that will highlight their shared commonalities amongst their differences.

These Culture Bump Steps help people move from a place of disconnection to a place of connection after a culture bump has occurred.

Each step asks a specific question which guides people through the process. To learn about the steps in more detail and see the specific questions asked, click here. (Coming Soon)