Let´s take a small break from our Myanmar travel and focus more on how to adapt better to a new culture; whether it is when we travel, when we do business or when we relocate to a new country.
During our “Appreciating Culture” training (http://be-a-chameleon.com/culture.html) we focus on the individual/ participant´s own culture and personality. Indeed it is important for us to know who we are, where we come from and what is important to us in terms of values, beliefs and preferences. Thus the first part of the training is about understanding one´s self and one´s biases.
Understanding one´s bias can be a trigger to understanding how we tick in certain situations we are confronted to, and through the training we support participants to see beyond these biases and open their minds and views of others more. Having a bias can have a negative impact on business as it could compromise the relationship we are trying to build with our counterpart because we will focus on our assumptions about this person and his/her culture using probably stereotypes or past experiences.
What we have to remember is that we are all unique, we all see the world differently, we have different ways of doing business and we most probably have different ways of living our lives according to our value system that has been transmitted to us by our family, education, our personal preferences (personality) and to a certain extent our workplace (company culture).
We have come up with a simple three-step model that can really help individuals, companies and even teams to better adapt to one another and other cultures. This model is used in our training in the second half of the session, as it enables and empowers participants to see beyond their biases and see that working across cultures can be less stressful.
The three easy steps are:
Observe, Analyze and Replicate.
Observe is all about identifying what is happening around you. How do people interact with each other, how do the greet each other, how do they do business, what is important to them? How do they dress? do they use body language? do they stand close to one another or do they have a certain distance between them ? All these questions and observations lead to the analyze step.
Analyze is all about understanding what your observations represent for you. How comfortable would you feel according to what you have observed, what would you have to do to fit in let´s say if you are not comfortable with close proximity. How much effort will you need to make. Now the important aspect here is to not perceive the “extra step” as an effort. I said effort because this is how we think about it because it pushes our boundaries, however remember that people feel it when we do too much effort, with experience and being aware of what you do will give you more ease and you will be less stressed and anxious to meet new counterparts. The third step is replicate.
Now the third step is Replicate. The point here is not to mimic your counterpart but to take in his culture and ways of doing things to find a common ground. For example you could speak with a low voice if you are dealing with an Asian counterpart, or you could stay close to your counterpart if you are in a Latin country. We do not want you to exceed yourself – replicate to the degree you feel comfortable with and without overdoing it, as your counterpart may feel that something in your behaviour is wrong.
These three easy steps have been used by some of our trainees and have helped them reduce their stress and anxiety levels when dealing with other cultures, and with experience they have gotten better and do not feel that they stretch themselves too much.
We truly hope that these three steps will help you,