Cultural Intelligence, Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

The Secrets to Connecting with People at Work and Beyond

By Tasha M. Troy

It is difficult to describe what I do in just a sentence or two:

  • Do I provide professional communication skills training?
  • Do I coach people in cross-cultural situations and environments?
  • Do I develop leaders?

The answer to each of these questions is “YES!” Modern leadership of any sort is becoming more demanding.  Position is not enough.  You need a whole suite of skills. Our focus at Troy Communications is at the intersection of each of three distinct fields: professional communication, leadership, and cultural intelligence.

Professional Communication Skills: 

For over 10 years, I have worked in professional development programs, equipping adults with the skills needed for workplace success – giving effective and engaging presentations, participating in and leading discussions and meetings, preparing for and engaging in negotiations.

While the participants in these programs have all been non-native English speakers, I have come to recognize that many of these skills are lacking among native English speakers as well.  There is power in being able to communicate clearly and effectively, and I am passionate about empowering people through communication, no matter their role.

Leadership Skills:

In 2014, I decided to partner with one of the world’s top leadership experts when I joined the John Maxwell Team.  I didn’t realize how little I understood leadership until I read his 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  Twice.

Dr. Maxwell promotes a style of leadership that is interested in the personal and professional development of those under the leader’s authority, making it an others-focused leadership.  The book changed the way I teach.  Instead of focusing only on language and communication development, I also endeavor to instill sound leadership principles into my teaching style and my lessons.

Cultural Intelligence Skills:

While my entire career has been in cross-cultural settings, in early 2016, I stumbled upon the field of CQ, or cultural intelligence.  Since the 80s, I’ve learned many skills and principles of cross-cultural competence through both studies and experience, and it has even been an element of the language and communication courses I’ve taught for the past several years.

What I discovered with CQ was a way to go deeper, a framework for assessing intercultural effectiveness and identifying areas for continued development, in myself and in those I am training.

Where these three fields intersect could be called “The Communication Skills of Culturally Intelligent Leadership.”

Starting with a personal awareness combined with understanding key principles from each of the three fields, we aim to develop effective leaders for our globalized and multicultural society, whether it is an international businessman or a grassroots political activist.  When we learn to connect with each other across dividing lines, we all win.

  • Take It Deeper

  • Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net
  • If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.
Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

Connecting Across the Aisle: How to Talk with Family, Friends, and Colleagues about the Issues that Divide Us

By Tasha M. Troy

In early November 2016, I went in to work as usual and encountered a coworker who was quite distressed.  She was very concerned about what it might mean if Donald Trump actually won the US presidency in the quickly approaching election; I had concerns of my own about the election.  As I sat to talk with her, I had a very uneasy feeling about discussing political views so openly when I knew there were differences between us.

Despite our political differences, we are still friends.

Connective Conversations

It used to be that politics was a shunned topic.  People understood it could be divisive and so, unless there were pertinent reasons to bring it up, it was largely avoided.

Then 2016 happened, bringing political divisions to the surface and into our daily conversations.

Today, sometimes it seems that politics is all anyone wants to talk about.  Now, I live in the Washington, DC, area, so politics is always a common topic here.  However, I’m seeing social media posts from friends and family all over the country, and even overseas, making sure the world is aware of their political views and positions.

Surrounded by Diversity of Thought

I am blessed to have friends, family, and colleagues who embrace many political positions.

  • A friend from work still declares that he’s “with her.”
  • A friend from college “still feels the Bern.”
  • A friend from church is working to “make America great again.”

These are people that I am happy to have in my life, regardless of their political position.  They are caring and intelligent people, every one, and it would be a great slander to “demonize” them as “other” just for their political views.  In fact, I find that I agree with each of them on certain points, just as I disagree with each of them on certain points.

One thing I have learned through my years of interacting with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life: People take positions for reasons that make sense to them.  I believe that where the communication breakdown often happens is we discuss conclusions, not reasons.

There is always an internal logic behind beliefs and decisions.

Where Angels Fear to Tread

When I feel it is important to discuss the issues of the day, I have found it is essential to choose my engagements carefully.  The conversation with my colleague worked out because she was open to my perspective.  We had already established a strong rapport and we respected each other.  I haven’t been able to have similar conversations with everyone in my circle.

When I discover someone is entrenched in their views, I don’t engage in conversation or discussion with them on that topic.  The few times I have, I have come away feeling slighted or insulted.  Instead of threatening the relationship by engaging in a “battle” I can’t win, I simply listen and walk away.

Sometimes people just need to feel heard, and I am ok with that.  At the very least, I begin to understand them at a deeper level, and it helps to build trust.

Seeking Common Ground

When engagement does happen, I try to follow John Maxwell’s 101% Principle – I find the common ground and build from there.

Common ground?  With THEM?!


If you think there is no common ground between Republicans and Democrats (or other political positions), you are sorely mistaken.  I often find people from opposing sides have the same goals and aspirations.  While I realize that there are some out there with a distinct agenda, the disagreement among most is usually in the prioritization and implementation of achieving those similar and shared goals.

Tasha’s Tips for Controversial Conversations

Starting the Conversation:

When I want to intentionally connect with someone, especially over controversial topics, I start by asking, not telling.

  • What is their position?
  • What led them to that position?
    • Their experiences?
    • Their background knowledge/ studies?
    • Their values (personal/ religious)?

Then I listen to understand, only asking clarification questions.  This also gives me a chance to determine whether my friend is open to me sharing my perspective.

Remember – these are cross-cultural conversations!  The perspectives and views may be wildly different from your own.  Take time to understand where someone is coming from before you try to explain your own perspective and views.

Maintaining the Conversation:

Establish some ground rules to keep the conversation going in a positive direction.

  1. Both parties must be interested in conversation, not grandstanding or soap boxing.
  2. Emotions must be kept in check. If you or the other person starts feeling like you want to scream, it’s time to step back from the conversation for a little bit.  And don’t be surprised when this happens.
  3. Always communicate with respect and clarity. The authors of Crucial Conversations say that you need to be 100% honest and 100% respectful[1].
  4. You and the person you are talking with came to your conclusions by different logical paths. Share the information you gathered on that journey so that you have a more complete picture of reality.

The Third Side

Most political disputes assume a black and white approach, but so much of life cannot be so sharply divided.  When we embrace binary options, we all lose.  There is always a third option, a collaborative solution that is possible.  Are we willing to do the hard work needed to find it?

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.



Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes Are High, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

[1] p. 22

Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

But What If You’re Wrong? How Negative Feedback Changed Me for Good

By Tasha M. Troy

A few years ago, I experienced a misunderstanding and miscommunication with a student.  I worked with her for a few months but couldn’t understand why she was resistant to my instruction and feedback—seeming even uncooperative.

It wasn’t until I saw the mid-term student evaluation of instructors that I realized my own misperceptions regarding this student.  It turns out that she had gotten the impression that I disliked her on a personal level.  This quite upset me because it was both untrue and not the impression I aim to give my students.

When You’re Wrong, It’s Never Apparent Right Away

As the instructor, it was my responsibility to correct the situation; once I did, the final few months were very positive with this student.

If I had maintained my perception of myself as concerned about my students and hadn’t been open to discovering and correcting the misconceptions, the outcome for this student would not have been as positive.

Kathryn Schulz, in her TED Talk “On being wrong,” points out that being wrong feels like being right—until we realize our mistake.  We often get so wrapped up in our own perspective that we don’t consider the possibility that a different perspective might give a clearer picture of the situation.

Of course, there are foundational truths that should not be diluted, but it is my observation that most disagreements don’t fall under that classification.  Rather, most seem to be over a question of perspective or priorities, and these are subjective.  You can only comprehend the bigger picture by listening to others, by understanding other perspectives.

The Four Levels of Listening

Mark Goulston and John Ullmen, in their book Real Influence, argue that, in order to exert influence, you must also be influenceable—which means hearing out others’ perspectives and ideas.

However, they don’t mean any type of listening; they describe four levels of listening:

  1. avoidance listening, or listening without giving your attention to the speaker
  2. defensive listening, or listening to respond
  3. problem-solving listening, or listening to accomplish a task
  4. connective listening, or listening to understand and build relationship

Goulston and Ullmen point out that if you are not willing to engage in connective (or conscious) listening, to hear others’ ideas and keep an open mind, your listeners are not likely to afford that consideration to you.

Seeing Conflict as a Growth Opportunity

This doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your own ideas; according to Goulston and Ullmen, “It involves not surrendering our judgment, but suspending it.”

You cannot properly evaluate an idea before you’ve truly understood it, and this requires attentive, conscious, connective listening—followed by the weighing of ideas to see to what extent, if any, you should adopt the new ideas.

Goulston and Ullmen, in their book Real Influence, say that connective listening “transforms conflicts into fertile ground where new ideas can take root.”  Isn’t this what we need to see happen in our communities and country today?

I encourage you to begin practicing conscious, connective listening with the people around you today.

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

Leadership, Our Blog

Building Trust in the Marketplace Starts with Me

By Tasha M. Troy

Have you ever felt misunderstood, that you were being treated unfairly based on someone else’s misconception?

A few years ago when I was leading a rather large project, I lost the trust of my team.  I had made a few bad decisions, and about two-thirds through the 6-month project, the situation reached a crisis point.  I had to make great efforts (and to humble myself) in order to sufficiently regain their trust so that I could coach them through to completion.

When I lost their trust, their success was jeopardized.


The Center of Trust

What can you do to resolve such a situation and move forward?

The root of it all is an issue of trust; it became clear to me that my team did not trust me or my intentions.

Stephen M. R. Covey, son of the famed author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that today, “We are in a crisis of trust.”  Trust is truly a highly precious commodity that is in short supply today.

In his book The Speed of Trust, Covey describes “5 Waves of Trust” as ripples in a pond: self trust, relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust, and societal trust.

It all starts with the individual: to what extent are you a trustworthy and credible person?


Two Elements of Trust

Covey goes on to say that “trust is a function of two things: character and competence.”  It seems to me that most people spend a lot of time and energy on developing their competence—pursuing advanced degrees and certifications, building their skills and expertise on the job—but few pay attention to building their character.

Character has its source in our daily decisions, which forms our habits.  The bottom line is that every day we can choose to make any situation better or worse.  If we consistently choose to make the situation better, we build the habits that lead to strong character.  However, if we consistently choose to make the situation worse (including choosing inaction), we build the habits that lead to weak character.


Developing Self-Trust

The first wave of trust, according to Mr. Covey, is self-trust, by which he means personal credibility.  Are you able to trust yourself?  If you cannot trust yourself, no one else will be able to trust you.

I find this closely related to self-discipline.  So many times, we hold ourselves to commitments made to others, but neglect the commitments made to ourselves.  How many times have you made the same New Year’s resolutions yet failed to keep them?

Every day you can choose to keep your commitment to yourself or you can choose to break it, choices that form your character and either establish or corrode your self-trust.

If you want to grow in the area of trust, Mr. Covey suggests starting with your commitments to yourself.  For me, this means getting up when my alarm goes off the first time, the time I intended to get up, and developing healthier habits.

Take It Deeper

What about you?  What commitments to yourself are you going to follow through on this week?

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

Cultural Intelligence, Our Blog

Three Keys to Understanding Any Culture

By Tasha M. Troy

Since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by different cultures. I learned my first Spanish words when I was 6, and I’ve been going ever since.

Through college and my professional years, I have intentionally put myself in positions where I was in the minority – ethnically, culturally, linguistically – giving me the opportunity to learn about intercultural relationships first hand.

It hasn’t always been easy; I’ve made my share of mistakes and learned some difficult lessons.  However, through keeping the attitude of a learner and humbly working to right my mistakes, I have learned some powerful keys to developing and maintaining meaningful personal and professional intercultural relationships.

Getting Started

The first step to understanding people from a variety of cultures is to learn about how cultures differ.  However, there are several research-based models out there that portray cultural systems, and it might be hard to know where to start.

Through studies, travels, and experiences, I’ve come to see three elements of culture to be essential to get a basic understanding of any culture.


Time: How does this culture see the flow of time?

Cultural views of time are described in both the Hall and Trompenaars models of culture.  There are a few different elements of time that can be highlighted – long-term vs. short-term orientation, past/present/future orientation, or linear vs. cyclical views.

If you want to understand people’s everyday decisions, I think the most useful element to focus on is linear vs. cyclical.

In the US (and most Western countries), time is seen as moving in one direction towards a particular end.  This is where utopian and dystopian novels and movies come from.  For example, the Star Trek T.V. shows and movies all portray a future global utopia where race is no longer an issue, disease is eradicated, and there is prosperity for all.

In contrast, in much of the world time is seen as cyclical, moving through repeating seasons.  Ever see a movie where the ending implies the story is about to repeat itself?  Jumanji is one that comes to mind; the final shot is a new family discovering the Jumanji game, and the story begins again.  Or if you are a fan of the Wheel of Time novel series, this cyclical view of time is a major element of the overall storyline.

My Experience

In my own view of time, I have started shifting from a strongly linear to a somewhat cyclical view.  Have you ever been on a diet?  My dieting downfall has always been “office food” – when coworkers bring in tasty homemade treats.  A linear view looks at office food as a one-time opportunity, which always derails my best intentions.  I have begun looking at it as one of many opportunities, realizing that this isn’t my last chance to eat a brownie!  This is a bit more cyclical view of time and opportunity.

How do you view time?
  • I see life as a series of recurring events
  • I see life as a journey towards a destination


Relationships: How are people expected to relate to each other?

In my opinion, how cultures prescribe the way people interact properly is one of the most visible differences between cultures.  In particular, Hofstede’s model of cultural differences includes the concept of individualist vs. collectivist cultures, which I think is a foundational difference.

Many Western countries, and especially the US, focus on individuals.  People are expected to take responsibility for their actions, and particularly in the US, children are expected to move out of their parents’ home at a certain age.  This is such a strong element of American culture that is can be seen in every “coming of age” movie out there, from The Breakfast Club to The Dead Poet’s Society to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

In many other countries, the focus is on communities and groups.  Independence is deemphasized while responsibility for others is highlighted.  I think in the US we had a bit more of a community focus in the past, especially in pioneer days when we only had the close-knit townsfolk to help in times of trouble.  We also see this illustrated in many military movies where individuals make huge personal sacrifices for the sake of their division or platoon.

My Experience

When I lived in S. Korea, I had many experiences that demonstrated this cultural difference, but one stands out.  One evening I was out with some Korean friends, and one member of the group had recently bought a new car.  Instead of celebrating his purchase by showing off his car, he celebrated by buying dinner for all of us, around 15 people!  This struck me as odd at the time, but it was a way for him to share his excitement over the new car with all of us.

How do you view relationships?
  • I have to take responsibility for myself and my own actions.
  • I have to take responsibility to make sure my friends and family are on the right track.


Worldview: How do you determine what is right and wrong?

There are so many different worldviews – Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, humanist – the list goes on and on.  However, worldviews can be boiled down to three somewhat overlapping elements, sometimes called worldview lenses, based on what is the most necessary to live a good and moral life: innocence, honor, and power.

Because I see the greatest impact of innocence and honor on individual decisions, I will focus on just these two elements.

Western cultures often embrace an “innocence – guilt” worldview, and I believe this is the basis for a “rule of law.”  If you follow the rules and obey the law, you are innocent and can become successful.  If you don’t, you are guilty and must take steps to remove your guilt.  The concept of justice is very important, even if it’s only poetic justice.  The Superman movies illustrate this worldview; Superman never kills his enemies, but he finds ways for the justice system to take its course.

In much of the world, the “honor – shame” worldview is predominant.  Rules and laws are intended to keep relational harmony, and therefore they can be bent or broken if a relationship is threatened by them.  When you act in a way that damages the peace of the group, you become shamed, and everyone close to you shares your shame.  Your actions are a reflection on all who are associated with you.  Steps must be taken to restore not only your own honor but also the honor of your family and friends.  One novel/ movie that illustrates this is The Count of Monte Cristo, the story of how a man takes vengeance on those who have wronged him, thus restoring his honor.

My Experience

Korean culture is decidedly an honor-based culture.  As an example, in Korea divorce is still considered a major failing for a family.  The fact of a divorce is kept hidden and quiet, so no one really knows about it outside the family.  However, the children from divorced families have no outlet, no opportunity to deal with their own emotional wounds.  There were several times a Korean friend confided to me that their parents were divorced, finding in me as an American a safe confidante and someone who could relate to their painful experiences.

What is your worldview?
  • It is important to me to keep out of trouble.
  • It is important to me to keep everyone happy.


Next Steps

If you now realize that cultural differences may be at the root of some of your misunderstandings, I have prepared a couple free resources for you to help you start identifying where you stand in relation to these three elements of culture, and thus begin to understand those around you better as well.

  • Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net
  • If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.