Knowing What You Don’t Know: Cultural Competence–The Personal Side

Have you ever heard the statement, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Sometimes that can be true. I find it important to remind myself that I don’t know everything—especially when it comes to people who have had majorly different life experiences than me. 

For example, I recently talked to an African-American friend of mine about walking in his neighborhood.  I told him I had read a post written by an African-American man who said he only walks in his neighborhood with his daughter and their dog because he does not want people to think he is “up to no good.”

I asked my friend what he thought about this post. And then he told me that he only wears hoodies that have colleges on them from predominately White schools. He said doing this makes him feel like people will judge him less and also keep him safe. It was hard to hear what he said, speaking from his own experience, and my heart went out to him. I have never considered the type of hoodie I wear or asked my kids to walk with me every.single.time in my neighborhood (like the man who wrote that post) because I was nervous about having law enforcement called or someone approaching me.

In both of these instances, I learned something new by reading (the post) and asking (my friend). I “came to the table,” if you will, inquisitive and non-judgmental. And as your therapist, I promise to do the same for you. As I hear your story and learn about your life, I will also aim to learn about your culture. I may ask questions so that you can personally teach me about your culture and experiences which will help me better understand and serve you. I am sure I will not always get it right, but my goal is to demonstrate genuine kindness and honesty about what I don’t know. 

I keep having conversations with my diverse friends to “know what I don’t know” and ideally become more culturally competent day by day. How about you? Do you feel culturally competent? Do you feel those around you treat you with cultural competence… or at least try to? Do you treat others this way?

If you want to become more sensitive to cultural issues, or if you want someone who is culturally competent to engage with you, we can help. At Life Enhancement Counseling Services we can help you identify what you don’t know about yourself and others and learn what is needed to become the best version of yourself. Please call us today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment. 


Yolanda Brailey