What's your CQ?

  • Published
  • By Capt. David Stuckenberg
  • 39th Air Base Wing
A large number of Americans travel the world annually, but less than an estimated one percent of the citizenry actually live abroad. The ability to reside, work and travel in a foreign country provides each of us a rare and challenging opportunity to improve our Cultural Intelligence Quotient, or CQ, that many can only dream of.

What is CQ? CQ refers to the degree to which a person competently functions (both as a follower and leader) in culturally and/or geographically diverse setting.

CQ is developed and strengthened through deliberate efforts such as study, immersion and personal interaction with diverse people and cultures. CQ is not about us, it's about understanding and communicating with people different than us. It's about knowing how to find common-ground and how to build on it.

The high degree of interconnectedness in today's multi-national world has made culturally competent individuals extremely coveted both in the military and private sector.
It is no secret that diversity often lends to cultural barriers including misunderstanding, tension, and conflict. However, individuals who demonstrate CQ are able to transcend common barriers by bringing insight, knowledge, understanding and clarity into unfamiliar situations. In turn, CQ helps them forge stronger and more productive relationships and alliances.

Regardless of where you live or your service affiliation, developing CQ also serves to enrich us as citizens, neighbors, friends, and family members. Mark Twain once said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." The truth of this statement recently became apparent to me after attending the NATO Tactical Leadership Programme in Albacete, Spain.

While attending TLP, students are encouraged to immerse themselves in the host nation culture. During this study I not only began to understand Spanish culture, but I also started to view my own family in a whole new way.

My Mother was raised, went to school and later married in Panama (where my Grandfather worked for the Panama Canal Co.). At that time, the U.S. leased the land on which it operated a set of locks along the isthmus. Because I grew up in the United States, I never understood why my mother's approach to life was so different from what I perceived as normal. However, the time I spent in Spain opened my eyes. Recognizing the similarity between the South American and Spanish cultures, I realized much of the bewilderment I experienced at home while growing up was the result of cultural, rather than personal, differences.

Admit it, we've all been told at some point, "You should get out more." This is the premise of CQ. It's about finding the meaning of our surroundings, language and culture to help us become more effective at connecting with people and building stronger relationships - regardless of time or place.

As military members and dependents we experience change nearly every day. In fact, for many of us, change is the only constant. Such fluidity in life often inclines us to cling to the familiar and shun the unknown. But, if we dare to look out the window with an open mind - we might see that each of us has a profound opportunity. We have the ability to explore various locations around the world where most only dream of going.

I dare you to take the CQ challenge while stationed overseas. Regardless of whether you're a military member, contractor, school teacher or dependent, you're ambassadors of democracy and the United States of America. We owe it to ourselves, our nation and our hosts not to take for granted the rare and unique opportunity to develop our CQ.