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Solve the riddle – “Did you understand?”

November 9, 2012by Daniel Ovidiu Banicain Business, People, SocialNo Comments
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“Under certain circumstances, we could have had the possibility to see it from another angle and maybe would have done it differently.”
“…” (silence)
“F*ck, §$&%$§!, sh*t, aksjdhfa” (screaming)
“you really don’t get it, do you, you little piece of sh*t?” (yelling)
“It’s awesome, really! Still, there is something we should take into consideration”
“It’s a bug, please fix it”

And the reactions…

“We have done an amazing job, the client is extremely happy, we can close the project (there is nothing left to be done)”
“I don’t want to work with this person anymore (sometimes understandable)”
“If we don’t quit the entire relationship with this client, consider me leaving the company” (just defensive, grow up!)
“We still have some issues to solve, but we will meet the deadline by taking the following steps”

To add another level of complexity please note that all of above come from people with different native languages even if all of them are in english. These are just a few possible reactions that I heard since I started epoint more than 10 years ago.

Multicultural reactions

What I learned all these years is that Swiss, will almost never tell you directly what the problem is unless you ask them explicit questions. Americans will always start with “this is great”, no matter if there are or not any issues to be dealt with. On the other hand a lot of Romanians will probably might not give you any feedback at all. Austrians will try to avoid “concrete facts” and leave the door open for changes. Germans will be more straightforward and provide you with a list, while leaving emotions out.

How about some basic principles?

This is no scientific research, some stuff is, of course, oversimplified and I met great people that mastered communication between different cultures with ease, but I would like to point out that there are some basic principles that can be followed in order to avoid misunderstandings.

We are all different (yes, I know, doooh, I will get there) :)  The point is that if you work in an international environment you have to manage these differences, to understand them and first of all to be proactive about them.
Take your time to google the country and it’s cultural behavior before starting a project with a person you never met before.

Check them out on social networks to see their interests and preferences. It will make it much more easier to work with a person that you have seen a picture of and you found out that both of you enjoy a good coffee.

First of all, “be polite”. There is no risk in being polite, it will always help.  Show respect, as you want them to respect you as well.
Then, ask questions and define the level of expectations, be proactive and make sure you are being understood by letting your counterpart confirm your ideas/thoughts/sentences.  It might not be enough just to ask “did you understand it?”, as of course your counterpart understood (she or he is not stupid), the question is if she or he understood what you wanted to communicate. So, ask specific questions, just to make sure.

Show them “how” you do things, give them concrete examples and ask how “they” do it.
Be open and ready to learn from their processes (there is always something to learn).

As the relationship evolves, some stuff will become “by default” and you will not need to double check everything everytime. Until then, keep on and ask as many questions as possible, be open and curious and notice the differences that make us so unique :-)

How do you see intercultural communication? I would like to hear your thoughts and experiences on this.

Image1  source & Image2 source


Daniel Ovidiu Banica

He’s connected with todays “digital” field and he never refuses a strong “ristretto” while exchanging some good ideas.

Daniel is the kind of guy you’ll never find sitting on a couch and watching football games on TV drinking beer. And he almost never wears a tie. Better so, look for him on any kind of board that could raise the adrenaline level (we are talking here about kiteboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding).

Even if patience is not his strength, he likes thinking in perspective and he’ll be very motivated if things will happen as they were planned. Other businesses success drives him to push the limits and achieve great things.

What do you think?