For the past 4 years, I’ve been preparing one client of mine to be able to operate in the local culture as efficiently as possible, and I have to admit, this proved to be more challenging than I’ve initially expected it to be. In the beginning, things were somehow easier, probably because my client was also getting trained in the local language, but as soon as his proficiency in that area got to an acceptable level, it became obvious that our misunderstandings were not language-related. It felt like he was constantly challenging my expertise, knowledge and education methods, and altogether my authority in my field. Sometimes it wasn’t even clear who’s actually leading the whole training process.
One of the interesting challenges was the constant oscillation between, on one hand, his desire to hold on to the previous processes (more suitable for the initial phases of the Workshop), and on the other hand, his desire to disrupt any established process, and experiment with something new in moments when it was clear (at least for me) that this new way of doing things will not bring anything for the better. Moreover, this would ultimately waste us some more time that we (or at least I) didn’t always have. At the same time, when the time would come to move with a particular process to the next level, he would express his disapproval in a, let’s say, slightly uncomfortable manner (to use a British way of assessing a situation).
I appreciated a lot his initiative to challenge the rules, the status quo and why things had to be done in a certain way, but challenging some things that were proven scientifically was too much for me, I must admit. I still went along with some of them (while keeping Safety first) as it was fascinating to understand his view of the world and how it should or could operate.
Another interesting thing was his direct way of speaking out his mind in public, which would get us into awkward situations with some of the locals that were somehow not used to his “culture”. The Dutch would have probably envied him for this proficiency, as in some of these cases he was spot on and it was hard even for me to keep a poker face and not give away my approving of his statement.
As well, his assertiveness would put us every once in a while in hot spots and he seemed to me at those times quite unreasonable. His assertiveness also showed up in the way he was requesting for the explanation of the new information (I would have said to make sure he understood it, but it wasn’t always the case, I would learn in the following session of repetitive questions on the same matter). It wasn’t always easy to convey to him a more consensus-driven style of negotiation but his haggling was so good, that even a Turkish market seller would have envied him. I knew he was good, but I also knew that such a negotiation style would not bring him anywhere in this culture (or at least in this subculture).
Another thing that made the whole training process slightly harder was his unpredictability coupled with a dose of being unreliable and with not keeping his word on his side of the deal. He was also a pro in not getting extra assignment nuggets in a deal, but after a while, I could also understand which extras in a deal he would agree upon just for the sake of getting the deal, but will not follow through with afterward. I didn’t have something in particular to motivate him to follow my process with all of my methods of education so that we get maximum results in the shortest time, but at some point, I’ve accepted that it is much better to let him develop his comfortable sense of initiative-taking that suited him best, versus following my process, as long as we kept things at a functional level.
What I’ve appreciated a lot was his ability to put our differences aside, including after some slightly uncomfortable negotiations (again, a British way of assessing the situation), and start a completely new activity together with me, with the most open heart and in a very energized way to make the best out of it. This was one thing that in the beginning was harder for me to get, but I’ve acknowledged that it is actually much better than my old way and brings much more benefits on all sides, so I’ve started paying attention to it and strived to replicate it as much as possible even outside our collaboration (as much as I was in control, and not my “reptilian cultural brain”).
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Several times I asked myself whether I am really the expert here, with all my education and experience or I should rather aim to learn myself too something new and just go with the flow. One exercise I started doing was trying to remember my initial training in the local culture with all of its complexities, and I was pondering whether the teaching methods got improved (or changed) since then or maybe just the personalities were different now. Luckily, discussing it with my colleagues in arms (some that enrolled for 4 such clients at the same time) made things easier as we could recognize similarities and patterns, and could share and acknowledge best practices when dealing with clients from this particular “culture”.
Looking back, I’ve enrolled in delivering this “workshop” 4 years ago and initially I thought that most of the things are clear, that I’m the recognized expert here, secure, wise and in control, and that the flow of teaching goes only in one direction, but it turned out that in the process I started to get educated myself too.
The Workshop I described above… well, it is my Parenting experience in a very metaphorical way, and I went for this way of describing it because it struck me how underrated and mundane it is considered and put aside under the simple name of “Parenting”. This type of Workshop provides you the chance to Negotiate ONLY with the Personality of another human (and not just “another” human), and we all have just a few such chances.
In these 4 years I started to understand deep nuances of my own cultural programming, I started to see practically how the outside layers of culture change with time and technology, and although I knew this before, I could acknowledge once again how individual personality has a major impact on understanding inter-human relations, and that interculturality without understanding the individual personality is just impractical stereotypical philosophy. I started to get educated in maintaining the negotiations on, no matter how tough, emotional and unreasonable they are (including the ones started with a hysterical 20 NOs!!), I learned to open up and accept needs I didn’t know existed (and were not captured in this particular bundle in any kids’ psychology book), I understood practically that patience is a virtue and the love for your kids can make you stronger, that is, if you decide to spend time with them at this beautiful (yet challenging) age. This is not easy (any non-parent or absent parent will miss the depths of the “not easy”), as lots of things you knew about the world and about yourself are challenged, but they are challenged in a natural, innocent, agenda-free way, with no intention to upset you (or drive you crazy), but most importantly it is done in a love-full way, no matter what you do (underline “no matter” because it includes also destructive actions that will, in the end, affect your child as adult).
With a world avid of empathetic people open to learn and understand totally unfamiliar needs and behaviors, depriving parents of these years with their kids for the sake of saving some months of work (..or some nervous systems) is actually depriving them of a very necessary training into becoming better leaders, stronger negotiators and overall wiser humans in a world of constantly increasing complexity.
Of course, my Workshop is continuing for the next few decades, and in my culture, it will probably continue with the kids of my kids, and so on, …only with the advantage of having less and less control.
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