Becoming Comfortable with Uncomfortable

By: Taylor

As a Minnesota born Hmong-American, it’s never been uncommon to find myself in a situation in which I am almost entirely the only person of color (P.O.C.) in the room. While I encourage everyone to communicate with people of different backgrounds, it happens almost without thinking to interact and group together with people you find yourself more in common with. Those commonalities often times are found in how you were raised, food you do or don’t enjoy, sense of humor, and other things that are heavily influenced by culture.

Image: looking at the blue sky up the side of colorful building 
Text: being comfortable with uncomfortable

Despite the uncomfortability anyone could experience when in a room full of people you assume you don’t have many commonalities with, whether in a classroom or at your workplace, is inevitable and will happen more than once in your life. Here’s a few notes and tips I’ve jotted down from my encounters.

Be open. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Another thing humans do when meeting new people is to automatically go to our schemas or stereotypes we have about certain people in our brain. It’s important to remind and train yourself to not always assume the stereotypes we have in mind are correct. Have an open mindset; be open to learning new cultures, new traditions, and new and different stories.

Be aware. Humble yourself.
Often times it’s hard for anyone to admit they don’t understand or know something. Microaggressions are defined by Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” Be aware of your comments to others. Humble yourself to the person or people you don’t have many commonalities with by letting them know you aren’t culturally aware and are genuinely interested in learning more from them.

Be yourself. Enjoy the awkward process!
Meeting and putting yourself out there isn’t always the most comfortable and ideal environment, even for people who consider themselves an extravert. In doing so, that uncomfortableness is heightened when you have no idea what to talk about when you don’t think you have many things in common. Remember to be yourself whether that’s talking about activities or clubs you’re apart of or are interested in, to a funny-cringey story about middle school (I’m convinced it was an awkward and weird time for everyone).

Meeting and being open to people of different backgrounds builds your cultural competence; the ability to comfortably communicate and interact with people who have a different culture than your own. In a workplace, it’s important that you, your coworkers, and anyone coming in and out are being respected and treated equally. Here at UMD you can build it by meeting new people in the Multicultural Center, home to our Office of Diversity and Inclusion (O.D.I.). In any and all careers we will all meet people we’ve never met from cultures we may have little-to-no knowledge about.

Attending UMD has provided us with some of those resources to assist us in becoming comfortable with uncomfortable. Now only you can begin the journey of building our cultural competence, and preparing yourself to be that cool-coworker-who-gets-along-with-everyone in the career and workforce you decide to be apart of.

Of Possible Interest:
The Impact of Microaggressions
Cultural Competency & Professionalism
Embracing My Self-Identity in the Workplace
Diversity – all our blog posts on the topic

Read Taylor’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Scott Webb

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