Mika Launikari


A simple Christmas poem

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When everything in the world
comes to a soothing standstill,
and every hastily spoken word
vanishes through the mind’s mill,
whispers from eternity can be heard.

When everything in the universe
comes to a perfect harmony,
and every chanting verse
becomes a truthful testimony,
divinity enters our earthly converse.

When something in humanity
still gives us hope and faith
and rules reinforced by sanity
make our planet again great,
efforts will lead us towards unity.

When everything in our palace
reflects unconditional joy,
and every golden wine chalice
makes our invited guests enjoy,
our globe grows to a better place.

When everything in our hearts
rejoices the beauty of love,
and when all hatred departs
on the wings of a white dove,
light illuminates our innermost parts.

Have a Wonderful Christmas & a Soft Landing in the New Year 2017!

Text: Mika Launikari

Photo: Bob Stefko (Pinterest)

Identification across cultural borders

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Our understanding of our own and others’ identities, the way we establish our values, shape our worldview, and adjust our responses to social experience are traditionally influenced by our culture and society. Yet, today’s international world shakes up our perception of time, place and space, whereby the question of how we identify ourselves and how we relate to others here and over there becomes highly critical.

Individual exposure to being international, intercultural or multicultural is vital in overcoming an entirely national identity and in starting to experience oneself as a member of a wider cross-border community. Essentially, all this is about citizens whose horizons are notably expanding beyond their own cultural frames. 

Indeed we are expected to grow to human beings that transcend our national/native cultures and successfully interweave complex social, political, economic, spiritual and global concepts into our identification. This may be confusing, although in the end it should result in a positive notion of identity, which is capable of recognizing and respecting otherness.

Feeling European “without” stereotypes

To become a citizen of the world seems to be the ultimate goal. If we consider Europe as a space of encounters, where free mobility of people is a fact, the outcome of this should be increasing intercultural interaction. This, in turn, should enhance a common sense of a European identity and identification in the long run, and reduce our stereotyped thinking of other people and nations.

What actually comes out of my PhD research – for which I interviewed 20 experts working for three different EU Agencies located in Greece, Ireland and Italy – is that working in a multicultural environment makes stereotypes fade away. All interviewees admitted that stereotypes do exist, but that they do not really influence the cooperation between colleagues from different EU countries as everybody acts as a professional at work. Moreover, these respondents appear to be highly aware of the complexities of identifying themselves as a European, even if they consider it as an integral aspect of who they are.  

Tuning your cultural sensitivity and awareness antennae

Based on my PhD research I can see that different types of sensitivities and awarenesses get developed among the interviewees. This is not only about being sensitive and responsive to cultural differences and knowing how to deal with them, but it goes much beyond that. It is more about letting oneself grow personally and professionally through continuous intercultural interaction, and thanks to this process reach such a high degree of psychological adaptability that adjusting to any situation any time anywhere happens easily and naturally.

The willingness and readiness to finely tune one’s cultural sensitivity and awareness antennae are key to make sure that the internal cooperative processes within a multicultural working environment driven by individuals with diverse cultural or ethnic backgrounds will work out productively and efficiently. Both attitudinal qualities – willingness and readiness – are required from all staff members. Without them it will not be possible to respond to the most diverse needs, interests and expectations emerging in an international professional environment.  

Photo: www.wirtschaftsschutz.info



Developing sensitivities to diversities

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Increasing international mobility and cross-border migration result in a more diverse population in many countries these days. As such this is not a totally new phenomenon, but for those who have other agendas contrary to this development, it can be a potentially problematic threat. Diversity is on increase in Europe and this is something we cannot deny. Knowing that diversity is nothing static, but something steadily changing, it challenges us individuals to learn, re-learn and unlearn on a constant basis.

Understanding diversity begins with understanding oneself. In simple terms, diversity means recognising differences and understanding that each individual is unique. Respecting each other and knowing how we are similar and different will help us to develop better human relations. We are similar and different in so many ways, let alone in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, worldviews, political affiliations, educational attainment, career, physical abilities, value base, family history and many more.

There are many ways to be sensitive to diversity in our everyday lives. For instance, we should make an effort to refrain from stereotyping and avoid stereotypical comments. We should also watch our behaviour and humour in general, whereby we can act as a role model and set a good example for other people. With an open and curious mind we can better recognise different forms of diversity and learn to be more tolerant towards all kinds of differences. True tolerance is based on the profound conviction that diversity is a blessing, not a curse. An inclusive and integrated society (or workplace) can, among other things, be built on valuing mutual recognition, clear communication and critical self-reflection.

Diversity Wheel

In my search of practical, self-reflective tools to deal with diversity, I made a discovery the other day and became acquainted with the Diversity Wheel model. I got really excited about it. The Diversity Wheel gives an overview of the dimensions of diversity that are present and active in one’s workplace or environment. It consists of four layers of diversity (personality, internal, external and organisational levels) through which stimuli, information and experience are processed by all of us. By means of the model we can explore differences, but also similarities from multiple perspectives, get hold of our own assumptions and behavioural patterns.

·        Personality (1st layer) shows how a person interacts with others and what his/her characteristics are, whether s/he is an introvert, ambivert or extrovert, active or passive, a fast and dynamic doer or a silent and reflective thinker etc., and how all these aspects together affect the way the person is treated by others.

·        Internal dimensions (2nd layer) are based on six aspects that an individual possibly cannot choose or control him/herself, i.e. they are given: age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, ethnicity and race. These aspects influence how the person is treated when s/he is dealing with diversity in communication and interaction with others.  

·        External dimensions (3rd layer) depict the outcomes of life experiences and decisions/choices taken. Altogether there are ten different areas (such as education, work experience, income, marital status, … ) through which people can be appreciated or degraded, connected or disconnected depending on how exactly these aspects are seen and applied.

·        Organisational dimensions (4th layer) include elements that are integrated into work and social interaction in an organization/at a work place. They contain a number of hierarchical as well as functional aspects of working life and how a person relates to them in the context of diversity.

The Diversity Wheel is a good instrument for shedding light on various, sometimes hidden and less explicit aspects of life in an organization where diversity is present every single moment. Using this tool can make things better visible to people who work together and that way increase their understanding and acceptance of diversity at work. Further, I am convinced that the Diversity Wheel can be an eye-opening instrument to be applied to guidance and counselling, too.    

Image: The Diversity Wheel

N.B. The original Diversity Wheel was introduced in Marilyn Loden and Judy Rosener’s book entitled “Workforce America! Managing Employee Diversity as a Vital Resource” (1991).