I coach expatriates and conduct cross-cultural trainings in a parallel fashion in my career. And what I’ve been noticing on more than one occasion is that many of my coaching clients — those who have gone through a cross-cultural training at one time or another — carry much stronger judgments than those who didn’t. That got me thinking — what’s the connection between the judgments and the cross-cultural training?
We’ve all heard the common clichés that populate people’s thinking about each other. “Russians drink too much”, “Americans are clueless about other cultures”, “French don’t want to speak any other language but French”, the list can go on and on. And while these clichés might be partially true — they do contain some truth in them — they are certainly NOT true when extended to the entire population. All Russians do not drink too much, all Americans are not clueless, and all French are not monolingual.
What I think happens during cross-cultural trainings is that these clichés — already rampant in the world — get confirmed when we, cross-cultural trainers talk about the problems that have created them. And in the mind of the unsuspecting client, a cliché and a problem, mentioned by a trainer, get “married” to produce a very strong judgment. Cliché by itself is one thing. Cliché confirmed by training is another.
I don’t need to go into details about why judgments are not beneficial for anyone entering another culture and preparing to live/work in it. Judgments bear misunderstandings, miscommunication, hurt feelings, and many other unpleasant things. A person with judgments is a person whose mind is no longer open. And we all know that an open mind is one of the major keys to success in another country/culture.
What are your thoughts on the subject?
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