Monthly Archives: April 2009

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 4 – Judgments are not Allowed

In the previous postings we covered Tip 1: Really Listen, Tip 2: Pay Attention, and Tip 3: Leave your Assumptions at Home.  Today we are going to discuss Cross-Cultural Intelligence Tip 4: Judgments are not Allowed.

In our day-to-day life we often pass judgments on other people without even noticing that we do.  We judge and we compare ourselves to others.  We compare achievements; we compare appearance; we compare education and intellect; we even compare social behavior and social acceptance.  Remember Susan Boyle?  Remember how everyone judged her by what she looked like, by what romantic experience she had (or didn’t have), and by the dream she dared to have (in her age and with her looks!).

It’s similar with cultures.  We judge each new culture and its people from the point of view of how it is in comparison to our own.  However, each comparison is ultimately an illusion – an illusion that creates either a superiority or inferiority complex.  Both these complexes contribute to misunderstandings between people; prevent them from truly knowing each other, and make it this much harder to build bridges and friendships.  If you judge someone to be better than you, how easy is it going to be for you to establish the connection?  Or, if you judge that person to be worse than you, would you even want to make a connection?  The process of judging not only makes you feel bad sometimes, but it also often robs you from an experience that can change your life.  It stops you from enjoying new things from an “uncluttered” — from judgments — perspective.

So stay judgment-free.  Consider everyone and everything as it comes into your life – new, exciting, and full of possibilities to explore.

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 3 — Leave your Assumptions at Home

In the last two postings we covered Tip 1: Really Listen and Tip 2: Pay Attention.  Today we are going to discuss Cross-Cultural Intelligence Tip 3: Leave Your Assumptions at Home.

The vast majority of us look at the world through the prism of our own culture, our upbringing, and our background.  This interpretation of things based solely on our own experience creates assumptions and these assumptions impede learning because, well, “why learn if we already know”.  Unfortunately this also rings true with some forms of cross-cultural training that often create assumptions through statements such as “the Russians do this…”, “the Americans are like this …”, “the French are …”, etc.  These assumptions (and the process of assuming) effectively build a wall between us and the others.

The assumptions we carry also very much define our attitude towards others.  And they color the way we approach our interaction with those others.  I recently had a conversation with someone who was very frustrated with some Americans and therefore didn’t think that Americans in general made very good expats.  Not only did this person assume that the entire nation of Americans are like those few people they met, but they also already gave up on any American ever being able to measure up to their standard of an expat.  How do you even start to interact from that perspective?  How successful do you think your interaction with those people is going to be if you start from such a negative place?

The key is to completely free yourself from any assumptions.  Treat each person and each place as someone/something entirely new and different, as someone/something that offers good things and may contain some bad things, and as someone/something you want to learn about.  Start with a clean slate and you’ll get much farther.

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 2 — Pay Attention

Last time I spoke about the Tip 1 of Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101 which was Really Listen.  Today I’ll talk a bit about the second tip of Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101Pay Attention.

This may sound simple but unfortunately in today’s world life is so fast that we often rush and pay no attention to our surroundings.  Yet if we stop and make it our objective to observe, it’s amazing how much we can actually learn.

Just imagine that you have permanently perched yourself in one of those European sidewalk cafes where all you do is “people watch”.  What do you notice in the new for your culture?  How do people interact with each other?  Which situations bring up anger and frustration?  Which situations bring up positive emotions?  If you are new on the job, what is the corporate environment?  Which professional habits are worth taking note of?

Observing and paying attention will help you learn more about your surroundings; will help you understand which issues you may want to avoid with certain people and which issues you may want to explore; and, finally, observing will get you in the habit of noticing the “energy” of your companions.  This energy is one of the most important indicators of what’s really important to a person.

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tips — Tip 1: Really Listen

For those of us who travel and live in different countries on a regular basis, learning about our destinations is essential.  What can I expect when I move?  What will be different?  What will I have to adjust to?  What are the people like?  How does their culture differ from mine?

These questions can go on and on.  Some of us try to answer them by researching in libraries and on the internet; others go through cross-cultural training; and yet others tap into whatever expertise the online expatriate community can offer.  All these sources are wonderful and they provide a wealth of information, however, they often form no more than just a base of the information required for us to become really knowledgeable about the culture, and particularly about the people we interact with.

The concept of cross-cultural intelligence goes beyond the laundry list of do’s and don’ts.  And so Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101 is the collection of tips and tools that help decipher – wherever you are – what is important to people you interact with, what makes them who they are, and what you can do to strike friendships, make business alliances, and establish partnerships.  Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101 takes a more individual approach to learning the culture.  After all, we are not made out of the same mould even if we were born and grew up in the same country.  In fact, all of us represent a multiplicity of cultures – a mix of ethnic, religious, corporate, socio-political, gender and many other layers of cultures.

I’ll be posting a tip per blog entry, so please come back here often or subscribe to the RSS feed to know when the next one is out.  I will provide the tools of the Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101 in a free report that will soon be available through my website. I will let you know when either through Twitter or through this blog.

Cross-Cultural Intelligence 101: Tip 1 — REALLY LISTEN

When we are in conversation with someone, an individual or a group, we often find that our attention wanders.  We may think of our lunch plans, we may be writing a to-do list in our heads, or we may be remembering a situation when whatever the speaker is talking about happened to us.  By drifting in and out of “really listening” we lose vital information – and not only the information that the words convey but also the information that the speaker’s “energy” is giving us.  This kind of listening, the kind when we hear but we don’t really listen, can be called internal listening for all that we are doing here is listening to ourselves.  The external listening is the opposite of the internal listening.  When you listen externally, your listen “between the lines”.  Your entire attention is directed towards three things: (1) what’s being said, (2) how it’s being said, and (3) how it affects the overall energy around you and the speaker.  You hear the speaker’s words; notice the speaker’s demeanor; and pay attention to the “energy” of the conversation.  External listening helps us pick up the nuances of different behaviors and cultures much more so than the internal.

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center. If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

International partnerships – how tricky are they?

My blog had to take a hiatus for a week and it was not only that my daughter was on vacation.  I have embarked on my first international business partnership and although it is very exciting, it’s been taking a lot of my time and energy.  The latter in particular.

Now, I understand that beginning a business venture which involves partnerships can be a challenge anywhere.  Even if your partners are from your own country and culture, you may still have differences in how you approach things, differences in how you work, and plainly creative differences.  Yet I think I can vouch that partnering with people from another country is a different animal altogether!

This isn’t about the logistical and legal details of having an international partnership.  Those are plentiful and we are still working on figuring them out.  No, I am talking about coming together and working on a project from such different perspectives about responsibility, time lines, ways of doing things, and communication that every single task becomes a huge undertaking.

And the hardest one for me so far has been to keep from imposing my perspective on the others.  There have been countless times during our meetings and our work together in the past two months, that I’ve wanted to pound my fist and scream that things are not done this way.  That if we continue in that manner we will either fail or end up spending a lot of energy, effort and time that doesn’t need to be spent.

Yet I kept my fist pounding to myself and decided that at this stage of learning to work together, this is also an opportunity for me to let go of the control I am used to having in all of my projects. It’s time for me to have a little more faith and trust in what my partners are saying.  It’s time for me to trust that the Universe will get us there in the end.

Don’t get me wrong, I will step in more strongly when I feel that things need to be guided.  I am not going to sit by and watch things fall apart.  Yet this is not the time to do that yet.  Although I am somewhat frustrated and although I know that pounding the fist may have gotten us where we are much faster, I also know that we all learned a lot in the process.  My fist pounding would have never taught us that much.

So this is developing.  And I am learning to work with them.  And they are learning to work with me.  And I think we are on to something really, really great.

Have you ever participated in any international ventures where you partnered with people from another country?  Share your experience!  I would love to hear it.