“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” ~ Nelson Mandela ~
Working together as a community is essential in today’s world. But how can we approach this in a respectful way when taking into account diverse cultures?
Dr. Bruno Sobral, geneticist, agronomics engineer, founding director of the Colorado State University’s One Health Initiative, and and alum of the 16 week Authentic Leadership program, shares how his multi-cultural lifestyle has given him insight into respecting different cultures while working together to achieve a common goal.
Dr. Sobral considers himself quasi tri-cultural, having been born in Brazil, grown up in the US, and lived for a time in Switzerland. Being in this position affords him the unique perspective that has shaped his life and work. He recognizes that all cultures have amazing assets that are different and diverse, and he has benefited greatly from being able to weave these cultural assets into his own life and work.
He believes that respectful communication is essential when working together, regardless of race or religion. But how does the perspective of communication differ between Anglo-Americans and other ethnicities? Dr. Sobral cites the Latino culture as an example. What does the Latino community bring to the concept of communication that is uniquely different but just as important as the Anglo-American one?
As he points out, for Anglo-Americans it is often about “here is what we want to do”. Plans are all laid out clearly and concisely, with little to no room for the personal touch. While Anglo-Americans respect the need to work together, building trust and respect is often not part of the requisite – it is just considered time-wasting.
However, as Bruno shares, in the Latino culture trust and respect must happen first. You do not jump in to do business with another person until these two essential components have been established. Only when you are able to trust and respect one another can you begin to forge a strong alliance.
As a leader throughout his career he credits his understanding of how different cultures approach communication for helping him to become a better leader. He appreciates that his multi-cultural viewpoint has enabled him to benefit greatly when working with diverse cultures.
Dr. Sobral sees his most important task as continuing to learn from every culture. He believes that we should encourage curiosity and understanding of ethnic diversity. By approaching all cultures in this way, he is confident that we will enrich our capacity to do the essential collective work that many of us seek to accomplish.
It is not about judging or criticizing people of diverse cultures because of fear or prejudice. It is all about celebrating our differences.
Vive la différence!
Dr. Bruno Sobral is the first director of the Colorado State University One Health Initiative and a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology. The One Health Initiative focuses on finding solutions to climactic, ecological, food security, population and public-health challenges in today’s world by delivering innovative interventions for healthy systems.
Dr. Sobral was born in Brazil and educated both there and in the United States. He attained his under-graduate degree in Brazil in agronomic engineering and, in his late 20s, achieved a PhD in genetics in the US.
Early in his career, Dr. Sobral was founding director of the the Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech. He went on to become assistant vice president and head of Biosystem Informatics and Human Microbial Ecology at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences in Lausanne, Switzerland. Prior to working with the CSU One Health Initiative, Dr. Sobral served as chief science officer for Alkol Biotech, a London-based feedstock research company that develops agricultural products for biofuels.
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