Stereotypes and Cultural Associations

S.Y. Bowland

Director of The Practitioners Research and Scholarship Institute (PRASI) and mediator, based in Atlanta, Georgia

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: Sometimes all the things that you were told about a culture, all the things that you were told about a group, can completely go out the window. I was working with a black family and a mixed family, and in the mixed family was an Asian woman. She was the one that was raising her voice and saying, "Look me in the eye," "Talk to me face-to-face," "Talk to me woman-to-woman." And on the other side was a black woman, who was giving her the silent treatment and saying, "Talk to the hand." So clearly, when we look at what we're told, it doesn't always offer the insight that we need.

Q: That Asians are quiet, that they won't look you in the eye, that there's a lot of context to what they say and there's a lot of symbolism... That, in that case, was completely false?

A: Absolutely, absolutely. I think that that's why it's important, because a lot of people from different groups have been together long enough that new cultures and new ways of working are emerging. People will do a lot of different things that you don't expect. You have to figure out how to engage the people at the table in the best way that you can, and that's not only going to come through in what you say. It's also going to come through in what you do and how you behave. People from many cultures will look at you not for what you say you are, but for what you do.