The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) was created by Dr Milton Bennett (1986, 1993, 2004, 2013) as a framework to explain how people experience and engage in cultural differences. The DMIS is grounded theory based on observations he made in academic and corporate settings about how people become more competent intercultural communicators. Using concepts from constructivist psychology and communication theory, he organized these observations into positions along a continuum of increasing sensitivity to cultural differences.

The model’s underlying assumption is that as one’s perceptual organization of cultural difference becomes more complex, one’s experience of culture becomes more sophisticated, and the potential for exercising competence in intercultural relations increases. By recognizing how difference is experienced, predictions about communication effectiveness can be modified.

Dr Milton Bennett identified contextual agility as a vital ingredient and added that the fixed, traditional view of culture no longer contributes to an active appraisal of culture.

“People that are a part of the culture are constantly creating it and, therefore, changing it. The relativist approach does not allow to fracture in the dynamic changes taking place within a culture as its constituents through language, through acceptable action and accepted beliefs and values.”

Milton Bennet

Intercultural theorist Milton Bennet says that this is what cultural competence is about; being mindful of your cultural context whilst being conscious of the “other” context and consequently being able to go back and forth between the two.

Having studied and worked in this field over time, I have found the developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (DMIS) created by Dr Milton Bennett to be more appropriate and applicable in today’s cultural context. The model was crafted as a simple framework to describe individuals’ responses to cultural differences. The stages of DMIS are a scale that ranges from ethnocentric to highly ethnorelative. The DMIS was designed on the theory that cultural awareness is complemented by enhanced cognitive intricacy. This process through cross-cultural sensitivity is suitable for leaders, mergers and acquisitions, teams, students, and anyone, wherever or whomever you are.

The DMIS consists of 6 different stages.

These stages include denial, defence, minimisation, acceptance, adaptation, and integration (Cushner, McClelland, & Safford, 2012). Each stage defines a cognitive construction communicated through attitudes and behaviours (Bennett, 2011). Bennett advises, “if you don’t keep moving on in an emotional sense, you could come and stop the flow of life that is accompanied by bumps along the way. How we raise and manage these bumps is a testament to our most intelligent journey.”

Bennett depicts what changes transpire when progressing across every scale phase in his model.

Recapitulated are the following:

  • From Denial to Defence: the person develops an understanding of differentiation
  • From Defence to Minimisation: bad judgments are depolarised
  • From Minimisation to Acceptance: the theme knowledge of the significance of difference.
  • From Acceptance to Adaptation: examination and exploration into the other commence.
  • From Adaptation to Integration: subject develops empathy towards the other.

One of the crucial talents global spearheads must have today is the ability to manage and leverage differences. Consequently, managers must deal with challenges, friction, and misunderstandings stemming from differences. Therefore, successful management in a modern environment demands cross-cultural competency. Leading such a team requires a distinct skill set to get the best out of any multicultural team. We tend to place higher initial trust with friends, family members or people who share our way of thinking and behaving. We may think people from other cultures are untrustworthy simply because we have grown up to give different emphasis to a range of trustworthiness signals. The issue of trust is rarely explored explicitly within teams. Individuals operate more in groups, and organisations are becoming flattered globally, which means communication is more peer to peer.

But being aware of the luggage you bring to any interaction makes you mindful, not mindless. I always encourage my clients to work on their feelings of discomfort. It is only through tackling our uneasiness that the anxiety will go. These uncomfortable interactions are an opportunity to understand who we are and how we operate more deeply.

On that basis, we can begin to change our approach, behaviour, and mindset. When the golden global mindset is deeply entrenched in an organisation, it can become the fast-tracking factor to success. It is no longer only ex-pats who are affected by globalisation. The numerous coaching and training programs I deliver confirm that when people join any company, they need to be experienced in technical abilities and need their human capital to integrate, incorporate, and have an inclusive outlook.

A genuine appreciation for forgetting to know and valuing people dissimilar to them. These changes are happening so fast that the change for them and us and our values I’ll be out there are implementing or contaminating or ideas can be unconscious we are all impact affected by what happens around us, and these have consequences on the behaviour of family work and organisation consider that the changes are taking place are not superficial these affect how we think and feel the past is no longer relevant, and no one and we are going to Next Generation to make a shift that I encourage you to be open curious as a judgemental being attached to the way things have been and the way things were

I’ve learnt that in business and life, to be an internal student, be ready to open and willing, not just be anxious about your market or interested in your market and what’s happening all around you. We have become our cultural ambassadors up until recently. Connection rap or influence was seen as soft fluffy skills and not hard enough in the business world. Yet, as we see the discharge and discomfort of pain and change now, we see that accountability means that if this is about connection.

Food for Thought

What are their cultural dos and don’ts? Which unwitting preferences are they bringing to the table?

Here below are some of the questions I ask pre-course-course.

Think of someone, or a group of people, past or present, with whom you have found it problematic or challenging to work.

  1. Describe this person or group of people
  2. How easy is it to make a judgment?
  3. How hard is it to change one once made?
  4. What is the impact of cultural differences on our judgments?

Reference Milton Bennet


  • Sunita Sehmi

    Organisational Dev I Exec Leadership Coach I Author I Mentor I

    Walk The Talk

    Org Dev Consultant I Exec Leadership Performance Coach I DEI Warrior I Author I Mentor I Work smarter I Live better I Think deeper.