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For Carol Kinsey Gomans Forbes.com Blog Question: How did you learn so much about working with different cultures? It all started with one man: James Bond. I grew up with Bond movies, and in every one he would always go to such amazing places. I was also exposed to Broadway shows adventures like The King and I, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and Pacific Overtures; stories, that which were all aboutto do with cultural conflict., and I found it was fascinatinged. ABut it all of that interest, however, went into a storage locker when I went to college to study electrical engineering andto pursue a career in high technology. It was useless information; oOr at leastso I thought it was. As it turned out, there was no better place than high tech for cross-working across cultural interactionses. Whether it was with the companys own multicultural staff or meant traveling internationally to meet with customers and vendors, I took full advantage of everythe opportunity to interact with different cultures. For nearly a decade I traveled overseas two weeks out of every month, always making an effort to get immerse myselfd in the local culture. I guess you can say thats where I logged my 10,000 Gladwellian hours! Then atAt some point, I realized I was building relationships and achieving better results than my fellow workershat had evaded otherseven if the ones that were had more technical training or had more experience than I.. When I asked myself how I was able to get these results, I realized thatWhat I had somehow figured out was how different peoplessomeones cultural backgrounde influenceds the way they conducted business. Things like; hHow they madke decisions, determined priorities, managed and motivated, planned schedules events and communicated with thoseeveryone around them werent a source of confusion. With these insights I could get details from those who had earlier been elusive, commitments from those who were hesitant to commit, and negotiate agreements between those who seemed forever at odds. Most importantly, wWhen it came to building trusting someone, I could tell when a difference in cultural beliefs made something seem like a lie when it was really just lost in translationnt. The bottom line is that the knowledge I gained allowed me to I could get more done, in less time, and with less travel required. IAnd it made a huge difference, and all it took was a little bit of knowledge to drastically improve my productivity in cross-cultural interactions.. (Brian note: This last line ^ is your infomercial its too good to be true! moment. Hammer home that you can get big results from small changes whenever you can. Everyone loves getting a lot for a little.)

Question: My interest is in how we in the U.S. mistakenly think someone is lying because of cultural variances. When we talked, you gave me some great examples. My favorites were your stories about business dealings in Canada, Brazil, India, South Korea and Japan. I think the examples Wwe discussed several examples which I think illustrate how easy it is for people with the best of intentions to still be misunderstood. WFor when we dont know a persons beliefs, values and biases, how can we be sure that what we heard them say was reallywe completely understand what they meant to say? But one thing is certain. The Knowing this information opens doors everywhere in business, because the more we understand how culture influences behavior, the less inclined we are to assume were being told a lie. The examples also show howamazing thing is that these cultural behaviors are remarkably repeatable and predictable cultural behaviors can be.; its amazingI cant tell you how many clients tell me almost identical stories that are almost identical to the ones Im about to tellve listed below. So Thats why I thought it would be good to begin each one with a direct quote from a client describing in their own words what happened.

#1: When Cultural Differences Hide in Plain Sight Overheard: What do you mean, hes angry? I was with him for an hour. And the whole time he seemed ok. He was calm and relaxed while went through each of his issues, and we came up with a plan to quickly get things back on track. But he never sounded like he was the least bit angry. Why didnt he tell me the truth?" Country: Values/Behaviors: Canada (Excluding French Canadian) Direct but understated. Reserved and low-key. Avoid excessive confrontation.

They look like us, talk like us, and sometimes even sound like us,. bBut don't let Canadians fool you;. There are differences. Canadians are more apt to remain calm and reserved than most Americans when confronted with a difficult situation. But because most Americans assume theyre just like us, this mild- mannered behavior convinces the American that all is copasetic when in fact, its not. And should the time come when the American learns the Canadian was actually very upset the whole time, the last thing that would occur to the American would think is that he misread the Canadian. Instead, he makes a second wrong assumption. He concludes the Canadian hadnt been honest with him during their meeting. This is not the case. Some cultures are just less confrontational on the whole than their American fellows. (Brian note: excellent information, but lacks closure without the last bit I added. Most of these examples could use a 2 sentence summary to close: This is what the difference is, this is

why its helpful to know it.)

#2: Time is MoneyBut Is It Worth Their Time? Overheard: "I dont understand. Theyve said repeatedly they had a tight schedule. So I wasnt going to delay the meeting in San Paolo next week just because I couldnt go. I told them wed send our most experienced project manager to help finalize the contract. So why did they cancel? What arent they telling us? Were they lying to us about the urgency? Country: Values/Behaviors: Brazil Relationships are the priority. Relationships are more important than schedules. Relationships insure long-term flexibility and success.

In a culture whereAmerican culture, Time is Money., Iif a project schedule is at risk the last thing youd want to do is delay finalizing the contract. IBut in Brazil and other countries, however, when it comes to setting priorities, relationships trump deadlines. Whereas an American wouldnt think twice to, keep the meeting scheduled as planned, and send in a pinch hitter and keep the meeting scheduled as planned, to a Brazilian its the people involved and the relationships with them that matters most. To him thered be no question the meeting should be delayed so thate whomever theyd been discussing the deal with all along would be at the meeting. In fact, letting the meeting take place without both parties presenthim could cause the Brazilian tohe wonder, what kind of business partner the American would be: If this is how Im treatedhe wont deal with me in person when he is trying to get my business, what can I expect from him after he already has my business? The Brazilian might then conclude this isnt the kind of long-term and trustworthy relationship he wants, and cancels the meeting. Ironically, what began as a simple lack of cultural knowledge by the Americans evolves into a trust issue to the Brazilians, which in turn convinces the Americans that the Brazilians were lying to them. (Brian note: Its important to keep your frame of reference. Adding American culture to the first sentence seems like a small change, but its vital that we know whose point of view we are reading the story from. In other words, people need to know youre talking about them specifically, or they wont listen as intently.) #3. The Truth. The Whole Truth. And Everything But the Truth. Overheard: Are you kidding? We had to wait all this time to get a development schedule from them, and this is what they finally send? Everything on it is wrong! Frankly, they're either still lying to us about something, or they just don't understand the business.

Country: Values/Behaviors:

South Korea Flexible truth, superficial harmony Avoiding confrontation High-context communications

You know those times when youve needed to tell someone bad news? Maybe Iits hard sometimes for you to come right out and tell them. IOr it could be something even harder for them to hear. What if you knew it would definitely upset them? Did you ever wonder if somehow there was a wayHave you ever wanted to delay the conversation, or if you couldeven get away without ever it, completely avoid mentioning it? Of course you have. We all have. Now imagine this:. What if starting tomorrow it was socially acceptable to avoid uncomfortable discussions? What if it there were a variety of allowable ways ofto handling the situationeverything from skirting around the issue with misinformation, to saying that you still don't have the information, or even completely ignore responding altogether. TAnd to top it all off, what if there was a way to signal someone that you had news theyre not going to like, without having to tell them that? Maybe you could say something that was so obviously wrong, something that either of you had wished was true but wasnt, some kind of verbal nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Just think of how much more harmony thered be if everyone could avoid confrontation but still understand each other! Well, welcome to South Korea. Like many other Asian cultures, Koreans are influenced by Confucianus values that encourage maintaining harmony in their outward relationships, even at the risk of not sharing information. SBut should the pressure to confront persists, Koreans will feel they can no longer avoid the discussion, but will say something they think the other person wants to hear them say, regardless of how inaccurate it might be. Brian note: Summary sentence needed. If it helps, think of Eddie Murphy: Koreans be all _____, but American be all _____ (minus the colloquialisms, of course)

#4: Jugaad A Problem With That? Overheard: "Why does she think its ok to make drastic changes at the last minute? This should have been brought to our attention weeks ago. And its not the first time shes done it. Its like she has no concept of how much havoc and mistrust she creates. Now I understand why so many think she's deceitful and manipulative. Country: Values/Behaviors: India Flexibility, adaptability Loose time constraints to accommodate unexpected situations Jugaad mentality. Malleable

When you grow up in a place like America where things happen on time, theres plenty of resources for them to happen on time, andand an infrastructure meant to support things happening on time, its easy to take the simplest of societal conveniences for granted.all of the time. For instance, it might surprise you to know that in some countries public buses are so scarce they wont depart until filled with passengers, university students have to check each week for class times because its foolish to have a fixed schedule that cant be kept, aAnd office workers who cant afford to eat out for lunch, or don't have the time to travel home during the day use a business service to have a cooked meal sent from their home each day. All of theseese take place in India. All AmericansWe know the phrase, know it as where there is a will there is a way,. bBut in India, its much more than just words. a turn of phrase. Its part of the cultural psyche, and known as jugaad. Only think of it as a kludge on steroidss. This might seem frantic and disorganized to Americans, but And when you consider what life must have been like for someone with a jugaad mentality growing up in a society where organized chaos is the norm, you begin to understand why theres no stigma attached to suggesting drastic changes at the last minute. For someone with this background, change is expected, eEspeciallyspecially when it benefits the greater goodboth parties. So contrary to what many Americans might conclude is the reason for the always at the 11th hour behavior, its very likely that the Indian partnerswomans intentions were pure. (Brian note: Whats kludge? Ive never heard that word before. Is there another word you could put there?) Closing Brian notes: 1. As a general note on your writing: Every story has a beginning, middle and end. Thoughts don't always form up that way naturally, but great writing does. You have a good natural sense for assembling your thoughts, but its important in the editing phase to make sure that your writing always has a thru-line. Thats where a lot of my changes were coming from. 2. Your examples do an excellent job of outlining the cultural differences and possible outcomes of these differences not being fully understood. However, they lack a conclusion of some sort. If you can come up with either a lesson to be learned or a tool for avoiding conflict with each example, those could be packaged individually into "lessons" of sorts and used as blog posts. (Note: if you do the above, it would be remarkably easy to turn what you've written into an "origin story" of sorts (the beginning chunk) and four "____ Culture 101" lessons. Five blog posts requiring little or no editing from what you have already.

Im assuming you know how to do this already, but it cant hurt to remind you. If having all the blue lines confuses you, just go to Tools Track Changes and you can turn off the changes in there.

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