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Cultural sensibility is a deliberate proactive behavior we use in both our professional and personal interactions. Remember, too, that cultural sensibility is an ongoing process, as we continue to interact and involve ourselves with others in new relations. Even though an interaction may generate a “déjà vu” experience, every interaction differs. Similarities might exist from one relationship/interaction to another, but they are never exactly the same, if only because of when they occur. In addition, each interaction represents a chance for us to learn something new if we are practicing cultural sensibility. Therefore, by deliberately recognizing and following the process that leads to cultural sensibility interactions, as shown in Figure 7.1, we have the chance to constantly evolve and learn more about ourselves and others. The following section walks you through this process.

Figure 7.1

Cultural Sensibility Process


As shown in the preceding figure, achieving cultural sensibility interactions involves distinct steps, as follows:

  1. Acknowledge that biases, prejudices, and stereotypes (BPS) exist in most cultures. As far as we know, BPS are not genetically inherited but are learned and embedded as cultural group values, norms, and behaviors.

  2. Recognize our personal BPS and how they may interfere with healthcare delivery. In an ideal world, we might try to rid ourselves of BPS, but it could take years to excise BPS that are intricately woven into our personal culture.

  3. Separate personal BPS from the healthcare provider-patient interaction by bracketing our BPS to provide culturally appropriate healthcare. This is not embracing the behavior of tolerance. Bracketing is acknowledging, clustering, and suspending our BPS from the patient-provider interaction. Once our BPS are bracketed, we can implement the fourth step of the process.

  4. Critical thinking and reflection-in-action to be fully present and open to the patient-provider interaction. When these steps are accomplished, we can provide cultural sensibility patient-provider interactions.


To effectively engage our cultural sensibility, we need to delve deeper into topics we often avoid. “Elephant in the room” is an English idiom that metaphorically recognizes an obvious issue or topic that should be addressed but is ignored as if it were not an issue or germane to the discussion (Martin, 2013).

Do you recall the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? It’s a fairy tale for children, but like most fairy tales, it delivers a lesson. The original story is credited to Prince Juan Manuel of Villena, Spain (1282–1347), but the famous version was retold by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837 (Kurzelil Stories, 2013). The story tells of an emperor who had a passion for, and an overabundance of, clothes. Today, we might say he had a compulsion for shopping/new clothes. His every waking moment was consumed with acquiring and flaunting ...

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