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Chameleon Lifestyle3 min read

By Erin Pace

In the animal world, adaptation is key to survival and chameleons are king. Similarly, Adaptation is an aim on the Intercultural Development Continuum. The below continuum portrays the spectrum on which one’s intercultural competence may fall.  Most humans must consciously work to achieve Adaptation, the highest form of intercultural competence. 

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Source: Intercultural Development Inventory Report

The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) is the assessment that many of us took when we first arrived at Stern.* This test revealed where we fell on the above Intercultural Development Continuum. For the most part, we learned that we are not great at interacting with other cultures and we need to do better in order to thrive in our increasingly multicultural business and personal worlds. Some of us cried because our results hurt our feelings while others of us were in denial for months after receiving the news. Many of us clung to the notion that we are good people, like our Mom always told us, or dismissed the test outright. A few of us accepted our results and began the quest towards the next bubble on the continuum. Regardless, I implore you to take some notes from our chameleon friends who seamlessly change to match their environments. You too should walk towards Adaptation.

The IDI defines Adaptation as “An orientation that can shift cultural perspective and change behavior in culturally appropriate and authentic ways.” This is the ultimate chameleon classification within the Intercultural Mindset category and is a far cry from its oppositional category of a Monocultural Mindset which starts off with the Denial classification. The IDI defines Denial as “An orientation that recognizes more observable cultural differences (e.g., food), but may not notice deeper cultural differences (e.g., conflict resolution styles) and may avoid or withdraw from such differences.” If you received a result that is less than desirable on your IDI assessment, I have a few tips to help you unleash your inner chameleon:

  1. Set up coffee chats with Sternies you believe to be considerably different from yourself. Frame the invitation as a time to connect, get to know each other and broaden your networks.
  2. Join a club that you would not usually be inclined to join, then start attending events planned by that club. Many clubs such as the NYU Stern Association of Hispanic & Black Business Students (AHBBS) have an ally category for their memberships. While at the events, if questioned, explain that you are making an effort to learn and become a better ally.
  3. Plan a gathering, such as a group dinner or bowling (be sure to follow Covid rules) and include people that you would not usually invite. Make an effort for all who are invited to be included in conversation.  
  4. If you are a student in the Langone program, sign up on Campus Groups to join our Intercultural Development Plan (IDP) Peer Partnering Workshop taking place this Saturday at 1pm: The event is organized by the Langone Diversity Committee. During the session, we will partner with each other to develop our IDPs based on our IDI results and move a bit closer to the chameleon lifestyle. If you cannot attend this week’s session, be on the lookout for additional sessions that will be hosted next semester. 

*If you have not yet taken the IDI and would like to, please email Gary Fraser, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion ([email protected]) and Nico Le Blanc, Associate Director for Diversity and Inclusion ([email protected]) to take the assessment.

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