Behavioral CQ: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

From Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence
 by David A. Livermore

What Is Behavioral CQ?

            Behavioral CQ is the extent to which we change our verbal and non-verbal actions when interacting cross-culturally.  Everything from how fast we talk to what we talk about is part of behavioral CQ.  Cultural taboos such as pointing or talking with our hands in our pockets are some of the endless actions included in observing behavioral CQ.  It’s about being sensitive and appropriate with our actions and behavior as we engage in a new culture.  Again, the point is not as chameleons whenever we go.  Rather, in an attempt to empathetically relate to our fellow human beings, we want to learn to interact in meaningful and appropriate ways.

At the end of the day, our cultural intelligence and, more importantly, our short-term mission endeavors will be measured by our behavior.  The things we actually say and do and the ways we go about our work become the litmus test for whether we’re doing short-term missions with cultural intelligence. We must draw on our knowledge CQ, our interpretive CQ and our perseverance CQ in order to act appropriately, which is behavioral CQ. 

The biggest problems for most short-term mission teams are not technical or administrative.  The biggest challenges lie in communication, misunderstanding, personality conflicts, poor leadership and bad teamwork.  These are all part of behavioral CQ.  The difference between short-term mission trips done with behavioral CQ as compared to those without is significant.  Short-term missions trips without behavioral CQ look more like a typical tourist experience where the group sticks together as outsiders, stays in cushy places, seldom veers into the local cuisine and views the culture as a sporting event rather than actually playing the game.

1.      Explain what it might mean to the people I’m serving if I openly choose to not eat the local food.  What could it mean if I refuse to eat with the people I’m serving? 

2.      Often we see mission groups all wearing the same T-shirt with some kind of mission statement on it.  Talk about the effect this may have on the people we’re serving.  What do you think it says to the people in the culture we’re working?

3.      Americans tend to be very vocal when they want something done their way or they want something done differently than what is being proposed.  Want do we do with this kind of thinking while in a foreign country or even a domestic situation where we’re in a different co-culture, e.g. working on an Indian reservation?

4.      Americans tend to think that, because we’re a very successful nation, that we may understand that the benefits of our culture should appeal to everyone else in the world.  True or false?  Who or why not?  As we watch the culture we’re in, what are we learning from them? 

5.      What are some ways Americans can come across as superior to other people in foreign nations? 

6.      So many western missionaries are often more concerned about getting these people saved than building personal relationships with them as they may never see them again and want to know that they have heard about Jesus.  Discuss the issues involved with this.

We need to PRACTICE our behavior CQ.  Just as complain about Latino people speaking too fast for us to understand Spanish, they could easily say the same about us.  We need to practice making adjustments.

We need to develop ADAPTABILITY, which means we may need to make some changes and be flexible at the same time.  As we learn to become adaptable and flexible, we gain the behavioral CQ necessary to interact with unique individuals and situations.  The challenge is to develop some general skills of adaptability so that we can adapt instantly to specific people, cultures and circumstances.

One of the most important things we can do to train ourselves in behavioral CQ is to be exposed to uncomfortable situations.  This is our need for BEHAVORIAL TRAINING.  It’s real easy to talk about our ability to act appropriately and adapt, but when we become uncomfortable, it’s another whole thing.  (Group exercise)  Remember, actions speak louder than words.  Though it’s a cliché, it really applies here.  We may be aware of this CQ here, but when you get where you’re going, we’ll find it’s going to be tough to not drop into the way we know how to deal with things.

Our objective is to get our actions to speak a message that lines up with the glory of God.  Will they see Jesus is us?


SALT, Inc. "To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map." — William Carey