Understanding Cultural Sensitives through a Trauma-Informed Lens

  • June 01, 2023
  • Shaunna Kelly

Cultural sensitivity requires a certain degree of self-awareness; we have all been exposed to learned stereotypes, and to be culturally sensitive means that we are armed with the correct tools to empower us to step away from those preconceived notions and treat everyone with the various sensitivities that are necessary to promote fairness and equity. We are not all equal, and recognizing the systemic and institutionalized barriers some groups have faced (or continue to face) is the first step to creating a more diverse workplace.  A diverse workplace can improve client relationships, working relationships and enhancements to the overall health and success of those working within it. A happy place to work is a functional and efficient place to work.

This article will explore some preconceived notions and hopefully draw on the need for cultural competence in the workplace. Of course, the concepts discussed here are transferrable to multiple settings: relevant to the courtroom, meeting rooms, interviews and even emails. The need to be culturally sensitive should have a broad application and applies to all professional interactions. Although the specific examples laid out below focus on Indigenous practitioners, there are transferrable concepts that apply to all groups of people, including those who identify with a particular culture, religion or LGTB2S+ groups.

Putting People First

Putting people first is a common theory of practice. A simple search on the internet will render multiple results; rooted in respect for the individual rather than the institution, it prioritizes the person’s well-being over profit. The days of factory-like outputs are no longer acceptable in today’s climate. When people feel heard, valued, and respected, there is a strong motivation to work collaboratively. A collaborative workplace is a successful workplace. Putting people first is about creating a desirable work environment and treating everyone, whether employees, managers, or clients, as individuals rather than profit-generating roles. This is not to say that organizations and businesses should operate at a loss. Still, if the person fulfilling the organization's functions is not appreciated and compensated respectfully, the organization or company should reassess their functionality. Being people first is intricately tied to a trauma-informed practice because to be people-first, one must understand that everyone who walks into our lives brings past experiences.