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Extension > Leadership and Civic Engagement Alumni > Exploring Hidden Thoughts through the D.I.E. Method

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Exploring Hidden Thoughts through the D.I.E. Method


Today we continue our exploration of Leading with Cultural Competence by considering ways to understand interactions and our own feelings.  

We  can risk cultural collisions every day if we do not take active steps to increase our understanding of not only cultural competency issues but also our own underlying attitudes, beliefs, and values.  These attitudes, beliefs, and values are the issues that lie underneath the surface and can cause the biggest problems in our ability to understand those that we are working with and learning from.  Just as the crew of the Titanic did not adequately estimate the size of the iceberg that laid under water, if we don’t check our attitudes and beliefs we can underestimate the amount of work we need to do to become culturally competent.

One method to use in increasing your cultural competence is the Describe, Interpret, Evaluate Method introduced by Janet Bennett and Milton Bennett in the 1970s while doctoral students at the University of Minnesota.  This method encourages individuals to take time to explore the who, what, where rather than immediately jumping to a conclusion based on our biases and long held beliefs.  Here are some types on using the D.I.E. Method:  
  • When you describe the event, situation, or individual remain factual.   Use concrete terms and thoughts to give shape to what you witnessed or experienced. 
  • As you move to interpret you should push yourself to develop three possible interpretations for what occurred.  This step is also a great time to seek input from a member of the culture you are interacting with to develop possible interpretations and understand the interaction from a new perspective.
  • Evaluate the situation by examining what you think and feel about the experience based on the interpretations and new knowledge you may have into the culture.  Acknowledge your feelings both positive and negative and also think about how the situation was viewed by the person from the other culture. 
  • As you use the D.I.E. method take time to work through each stage trying hard not to jump from describing to evaluating. 


There are new thoughts around moving to a model that is Describe, Analyze, Evaluate.  Supporters of this model believe that using analysis rather than interpretation as the second step moves farther away from subjective reactions which can lead to judgment.  Analysis of an issue lends itself to deeper discussions and moving the conversation forward to explore underlying issues.  DAE is also a Korean word that carries many meanings such as “foundation” and also “the opposite.”  What a great word to use to describe wanting people to change their foundation of thinking in relation to past attitudes and assumptions.   To learn more about the thoughts behind the DAE model check out Nam & Condon in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 

Photo Credit Flickr user Dan (catching up)

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