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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.
Interpersonal Communication, Our Blog

The Art of Listening

By Tasha M. Troy

When I was living in S. Korea, I made a point of learning the language and using it whenever I had the opportunity.  However, more than once, I walked into a shop and asked a question in (relatively) good Korean only to be answered by the wide-eyed shop keeper with a hand up in a “stop” gesture and “So-ree.  No En-guh-lish-ee.”  And that was the end of the conversation.

After this happened two or three times, I finally figured out the problem – the shopkeepers heard the language that they expected to hear.  They were not actively listening to the words coming out of my mouth, so when they saw my white face, they assumed I would speak English.  I adjusted my approach to start off with a Korean greeting in order to “warm up the ears” of the shopkeeper, which worked beautifully.

 

People hear what they expect to hear.  

Admittedly, my case is a somewhat extreme example (though absolutely true); however, my observations indicate that we hear what we expect to hear, not necessarily what was actually said, especially when we are not actively and consciously listening.

Listening Filters

I see this with my clients time after time, and I’ve also seen it happen with friends and family.  Many times participants in my training programs tell me they couldn’t focus on what a speaker said because they were distracted by their own opinions and views on the topic or by their perceptions of the speaker.  Our biases interfere with our ability to listen accurately.

Julian Treasure, a sound and listening expert, calls these biases “filters,” which most often unconsciously determine where we place our listening attention, and so determine our sense of reality.  In his TED Talk “Five Ways to Listen Better,” he references culture, language, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and intentions as filters that can interfere with listening.

It seems to me that these filters encompass just about all of the essentials of life!  So how can we ever begin to understand people, especially when we disagree?

 

Connective Listening

In their book Real Influence, Mark Goulston and John Ullmen call the highest level of listening “connective listening.”  This is listening to understand and build rapport; your intention at this level is not even in solving a problem but to get underneath the surface of what the person is sharing.  According to Goulston and Ullmen, “It’s listening without an agenda, because you’re not focused on responding or even on helping.”  Only after fully understanding the situation can solutions be explored.

Of course, these things are very difficult to do when you are speaking with someone approaching the issue from a very different perspective.  Effective connective listening does not happen when we are focused on our own position, our own ideas, our own “rightness.”

Eventually, connective listening requires both parties to view the situation from the other’s perspective.  This is what makes listening an art.  Empathy, kindness, integrity, trustworthiness, a willingness to suspend reactions – these are keys to open communication, and it starts with listening.  Focus on the heart of what people are saying rather than on the words used to express those ideas, and ask questions to clarify when the words make the message unclear.

 

Take It Deeper

Just think, how could our lives and our communities be transformed if we simply began practicing connective listening?

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, Our Blog

Watch Your Blind Spot!

By Tasha M. Troy

Several years ago while I was living in South Korea, I met my parents in Hawaii for a short vacation.  Since I was scheduled to arrive considerably earlier than my family coming from the mainland, my father suggested I pick up the rental car and check out Honolulu, which I thought was an excellent idea.

As I was driving around, I made a last-minute decision to get into a left-turn lane.  When I checked, the lane appeared to be clear.  Suddenly, I heard a “thump!” and realized that there was a motorcyclist there!  Clearly I had failed to check my blind spot.  Fortunately, I didn’t injure the driver, but he was quite angry and I was shaken by the experience.

We are all familiar with the concept of a blind spot while driving, but very few are familiar with mental blind spots.

In their book Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing, Gain without Giving In, Mark Goulston and John Ullmen talk about listening past your blind spot.  They define your “blind spot” as the condition of being immersed in your own perspective, and when that happens, you are not able to connect with others effectively.  In fact, Goulston and Ullmen propose that it is only in being influenceable that we can achieve greater influence ourselves.

 

Becoming Influenceable

When I talk to clients and friends about being open-minded and influenceable, I tend to get a bit of push-back.  They say they don’t want to be “so opened minded their brain falls out,” and they express concern that being open to others’ ideas means they will have to compromise their values and principles.

However, I have found Goulston and Ullmen’s explanation to be an excellent way of looking at this so-important element of developing influence with another:  “Being influenceable means being both open-minded and open-hearted.”  (p. 108)

If we truly value people in general, we need to first look for the value they bring to any relationship without imposing our own expectations or perspectives on them.  To me, this is the essence of being open-minded.  Even someone I disagree with violently on most things will have something of value to add to my life.  This doesn’t relieve me of responsibility; being influenceable means we have greater responsibility to evaluate new ideas as they are presented, but it doesn’t mean we dismiss the people who share those ideas.

In our super-charged political atmosphere right now, I dare you to open your mind and your heart to truly hear someone else, especially if that someone has dramatically different views than you do.  You might just be surprised by what their perspective can reveal.

 

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

Finding Your Strengths: A Powerful Key to Finding Your Purpose

By Tasha M. Troy

I have a friend with an undergraduate degree in music.  I heard him once say that he was only a mediocre flutist but that he was able to outperform many of his classmates.  The secret?  He had to work hard just to keep up, but those with more natural talent chose to coast along.  In the end, he graduated a better performer.

Experts in human potential say that you should develop your strengths, not your weaknesses.  This seems counter intuitive to most; we think we should try to do better what we don’t do well.  However, the truth is you will only really shine in areas of strength, but you will never reach your full potential until you invest the time and energy to grow in your areas of raw talent.  Just like my friend’s classmates, if you choose not to grow in those areas, you will never truly excel or discover  your purpose.

John Maxwell says that we “should get out of [our] comfort zone but stay in [our] strength zone,” but this assumes we know what our strengths are.

 

Discovering Our Strengths

I have just recently taken the Gallup StrengthsFinders assessment, and it seems a very useful tool, especially for those who may be less introspective or reflective of themselves.

If you aren’t familiar with StrengthsFinders, let me give just a brief overview.

  1. It measures your talents, not your strengths, but reveals where you have the potential to develop a strength.
  2. It identifies your 5 most prominent talents, “what’s right with people,” from a list of 34.
  3. This assessment actively discourages introspection!  You are given only 20 seconds to answer each question.

Putting Strengths to Work

Because I am a highly reflective person, the results of my assessment weren’t tremendously surprising to me, but they have provided some interesting insights.  What it has done is given me a framework to help me in ways perhaps not intended by the designers.

It is intended to provide teams with insights so that they can build around complimentary strengths, but at the moment I am a “solo-preneur” without a team.  I have to fill every role, whether I am talented at it or not.

As an example, I know I need to get out and network in order to build my business.  One of the talents is called “woo” – winning others over – which seems an essential talent for networkers.  My father, who has never met a stranger, must have this talent, but I did not inherit it!  It is truly the opposite of my natural inclination – an introvert who would much rather sit with a book than mingle with the crowds.

In order to become a more outgoing and proactive networker, I have dug into the descriptions of my talents for elements that could compel me to approach people.  I have found one – the “developer” talent is “drawn toward people” for the purpose of helping them develop their talents.

I am now applying this talent insight to my networking approach; instead of looking at a room full of strangers, I choose to look at it as a room full of potential.  Using this new approach, I have been experiencing more positive results.

 

Take It Deeper

Where are your greatest strengths?  Which talents are you using, and which ones are you growing?

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

Cultural Intelligence – A Key to Working with Diversity

By Tasha M. Troy

Since I was a child, I have pursued “cultural intelligence.”  No, I didn’t call it that at the time, but that is when I began developing an appreciation and affection for cultural and linguistic differences.

Later, as a communication skills instructor, I came to recognize and appreciate measures of individual difference, all the things that make us unique – personality, learning styles, talents and abilities.

The Human Dichotomy 

These observations and experiences brought me to a point where I operate with an unusual tension:

  • The more I meet people from around the world, the more I realize we are all really the same – same hopes, fears, dreams, and needs.
  • The more I work with individuals, the more I realize we are unique, a “culture of one” – there are no two people who are identical on all points (even identical twins have differing personalities and interests!).

Most of my adult life has been learning to operate within this tension.

 

A Proliferation of Differences

In today’s globalized and interconnected world, we are often in the position of working with people who seem to have little in common with us.

Cultural differences abound, even between people who come from the same country and speak the same language!  Today, living in the Washington, DC, area, I see cultural differences all the time: East Coast vs. West Coast, public sector vs. private sector, Democrats vs. Republicans.

If we are all so very different from each other, how can we possibly work together?

 

Developing Cultural Intelligence

I believe the most effective leaders today demonstrate the ability to read cultural differences and navigate those differences to bring successful outcomes for all involved.

However, developing this level of leadership, with a dedication to reaching people where they are, is not an easy thing to attain!

  • It requires not only knowledge but also maturity and character development.
  • It demands selflessness and a focus on others.
  • It engages emotional intelligence and interpersonal wisdom.

But the payoff is so worth the investment!  In their book Real Influence, authors Mark Goulston and John Ullmen say, “When we break through barriers of geography or language or age … we create new possibilities and identify new paths to great outcomes.”

And isn’t that what every professional wants?

 

Let’s Start a Conversation

For the past several years, I’ve been working to develop my cultural intelligence for the sake of my students and clients, enabling me to work with diverse groups to achieve individual and group goals.  I have learned some hard lessons, but I’ve also gained invaluable knowledge about effective intercultural leadership.

 

Take It Deeper

What questions do you have about cultural intelligence?

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, Our Blog

Do You Tick Down a Checklist in Conversations? Here’s How to Go Deeper

By Tasha M. Troy

Not long ago, I sat down with a friend for lunch. As we were catching up, I began to feel like I was being interrogated rather than participating in a conversation. I’m not saying my friend was intrusively firing questions at me; she was friendly and cheerful as she asked me about the various situations I’ve been facing. She was even asking some good open-ended questions. However, I ended up leaving the conversation feeling like I hadn’t actually been heard.

 

Not All Listening Is Equal

I suspect most people understand what it takes to show interest in others – remember what is important to the other person and ask open-ended questions – yet we still fail to connect on the deeper levels that each person craves. How is it that my friend did everything she was supposed to do and still left me feeling unheard?

Mark Goulston and John Ullmen introduce four levels of listening in their book Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing, Gain without Giving In. The first two levels are generally negative and should not be used if at all possible – avoidance (distracted) listening and defensive (reactive) listening.

 

Why the “Shopping List” Approach Doesn’t Really Work

The third level, problem-solving listening, is very practical and often effective when facts and reason are paramount. However, according to Goulston and Ullmen, “Level 3 listening, especially when matters are complex or emotionally charged, leaves too much room for misunderstanding.”

As I pondered the experience with my friend, I realized that this was the level that she had engaged in. Her questions had me focusing on the facts of my circumstances, not the deeper meaning I am deriving from them or how I feel about them. To an extent, it felt as though she were working her way down a list of topics she had to cover and was less interested in actually hearing what I had to say about the topics.  I have to wonder how often I, too, take this approach in relationships – more often than is good, I suspect.

 

Going to the Next Level in Relationships

The highest level of listening, Level 4, is called “connective listening.” This is listening to understand and build rapport; your interest at this level is not even in solving a problem but to get underneath the surface of what the person is sharing. According to Goulston and Ullmen, “It’s listening without an agenda, because you’re not focused on responding or even on helping.” Only after fully understanding the situation can solutions be explored.

Listening to another person at this level is a powerful way to build a relationship. Whether someone is simply sharing an experience or is venting, responding by asking for more information affirms the speaker and shows your concern for their feelings. It allows them to release all the negative emotions associated with the situation, and consequently they become better able to listen to you in return, further strengthening the relationship.

 

Take It Deeper

I believe that connective listening is a powerful tool. How much suffering can we alleviate simply by listening with open ears and open hearts to those around us? Who can you practice connective listening with today?

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.

 

 

THE MAGIC KEY TO PERSUASION
Interpersonal Communication, Our Blog

The Magic Key to Persuasion

By Tasha M. Troy

As a professional development trainer, I am often in the position of trying to convince a student or client to buy in to the goals of the course or of a particular activity.

A few years ago, I experienced a particularly stubborn student who was determined to do assignments his own way, basically wanting me to edit articles he intended to have published instead of doing the coursework.  This approach put him in danger of failing not only my course but the entire eight-month program he was enrolled in.

In order to convince him to complete assignments so that he could pass the course and the program, I asked him to meet with me in person, to which he agreed.

 

One Conversation Brought Down Barriers—Like Magic!

At first, I tried to reason with him, describing the consequences of non-compliance and the benefits of simply following instructions, all to no avail.  It seemed as if he were determined to fail the program, and I was getting more and more frustrated by his refusal to accept my limitations as his instructor.

Finally, I made an offer I had held in reserve: in return for his completing the assignments, I would also review his articles intended for publication.

Immediately his stubbornness dissipated.

 

Five Things Just Happened to Persuade Him

How can you persuade someone who seems determined, even to his own detriment, to hold to his own position?   Clearly, there was something deeper going on, something that I wasn’t immediately aware of.

However, I would have never discovered a solution if I hadn’t been willing to step back from my goals and see things from his perspective.

And it is not hard to see things from another’s perspective.  The Five Core Concerns of negotiation – as described by Dan Shapiro, the associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project – zero in on the five emotional needs of any person you come in contact with:

  • Appreciation – to have their efforts and experience recognized and appreciated.
  • Autonomy – to make decisions free of force, coercion, or manipulation.
  • Affiliation – to belong, to be a member of a group.
  • Status – to be treated with respect, no matter our position in the hierarchy.
  • Role – to know that our efforts are working towards a greater goal.

 

Give and You Shall Receive

In the encounter with my student, I had to tap into each of these points:

  • show understanding of and appreciation for his desires and goals.
  • respect his autonomy; I couldn’t force him to complete his assignments.
  • demonstrate that we were on the same team.
  • be respectful of his identity as an experienced and knowledgeable professional.
  • define, and expand, our roles as teacher and student.

In the end, he said he did not want to create more work for me, so he wouldn’t ask me to review both assignments and articles.  Instead, he agreed to simply complete his assignments, and he successfully completed the course and program.

If I had insisted that he complete assignments simply based on my position as his instructor, we would have had a very different outcome.  However, because I was willing to set aside my agenda and meet him where he was, we were able to come to a positive conclusion.

 

Take It Deeper

What situation do you find yourself in today where a little selflessness might open a new way forward?

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, Our Blog

Protect Your Buttons!

By Tasha M. Troy

Have you ever worked with someone who just rubbed you the wrong way?

I am one who prides herself on her ability to get along with just about anyone, but I once had a coworker who simply got under my skin almost every time we interacted.  This became a source of stress in our small department!

How often do we let people or circumstances “push our buttons”?

 

Emotional Intelligence in Action

We often hear about the importance of “emotional intelligence,” and we may have read up on it, even taken a course, in our efforts to become more effective leaders.  In their book Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee point out that “understanding the powerful role of emotions in the workplace sets the best leaders apart from the rest – not just in the tangibles such as better business results and the retention of talent, but also in the all-important intangibles, such as higher morale, motivation, and commitment.”

However, it’s hard to be “intelligent” in the midst of a trying situation.  On top of our knowledge, we have to practice emotional resilience and control, especially when the stakes are low, so that we can be more effective when the stakes are high.  If you want to have an impact in your sphere of influence on both the tangible and intangible measures, you have to start with protecting your own emotional buttons.  Leadership always starts with yourself.

 

Rising Above the Drama

Any time we are drawn into a conflict, it is important to remember one thing:  I can only control and change myself; there is nothing I can do to control the other person or their reactions.

If that is the case, what can we do to rise above the drama of everyday, or even extraordinary, conflict?

Changing how you react to the people and circumstances that provoke you is not a quick and easy thing.  In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell talks about “The Law of Process” – leadership doesn’t develop in a day, but daily, which includes self-leadership.  It’s a process.

Just like losing weight or building muscles or learning how to perform any skill takes time, effort, attention, and practice, so building our emotional muscles takes time.

 

Imperfect Progress

Lysa TerKeurst talks about such a process in her book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.  She calls it “imperfect progress.”  If each day we are making slightly better choices than we did yesterday, we are making progress.  We won’t react perfectly every time; we are still human and we will blow it.  However, if that happens less and less frequently, we have cause to celebrate.

In the situation with my colleague, I learned under what circumstances I could interact with her and when I should steer clear of her.  I became more aware of my own reactions and was intentional about reacting differently.  It didn’t repair the relationship outside of the workplace, but it made it possible for us to effectively work together.

 

Take It Deeper

In what area of life do you need to allow “imperfect progress”?

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 weekly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

References

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.  by Lysa TerKeurst

Cultural Intelligence, Leadership, Our Blog

Four Guidelines to Help Manage Workplace Diversity

By Tasha M. Troy

As I walked into the room, the three or four conversations subsided, and ten pairs of eyes turned to me expectantly.  It was the first day in an intensive six-month language and communication training program.  The individuals in the room spoke nine different languages and came from five different regions of the world.  It was my job not only to teach them the intricacies of professional English communication skills but also to create a mutually supportive community that could endure the six months together and beyond.

It is fairly easy to get along well with people who are very much like you.  The Law of Magnetism, from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell, states that you attract who you are.  However, in today’s globalized environment, it is more common to be in a room where there is little in common, at least on the surface.

I have observed that most people tend to avoid diversity assuming that under such circumstances, cohesion and community will be extraordinarily difficult if not impossible.  However, I personally have found that it is possible; my students and clients have often stated that the diversity of the group was a major asset, one of the key benefits of the program.

After years of working with ethnically, linguistically, and occupationally diverse groups, I have developed some guidelines to create a sense of community:

  1. Respect individual differences and strengths
  2. Set clear guidelines for appropriate behavior
  3. Present shared goals and shared mission regularly
  4. Provide opportunity for individual expression

 

What might this look like in a typical office setting?

Primarily, you have to verbalize each of these elements: respect for differences, guidelines, goals, and invitations for opinions.  It is important to act respectfully, but not everyone perceives respect in the same way, especially if they come from different cultural backgrounds.  Never assume that your good opinion is perceived and understood until you have explicitly stated it.

Speaking out your perceptions of strengths, enforcing guidelines, and reviewing goals is also very important.  John Maxwell says that “vision leaks”; when it is not regularly presented to your team, it will be forgotten until there is a problem.  Trust me – this is a time where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

Remember also that some personality traits and elements of cultural background hinder people from speaking up in meetings and other group settings.  Find ways to create smaller “task forces” for specific projects or take the time to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your team members.

Working with a diverse team is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and when managed well, it can provide rich benefits to your team, your department, and your organization.      It takes a bit of extra effort, but the rewards far outweigh the costs!

 

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 weekly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

Interpersonal Communication, Our Blog

The Power of Gentleness

By Tasha M. Troy

In 2004, I began a new phase of my teaching career by joining the teaching staff at a multinational corporation based in South Korea. Our students were mid-level managers and mid-career professionals, and I quickly learned a new set of classroom management strategies that incorporated respect for their positions and experience while still giving constructive feedback.

In 2010, the necessity for giving gentle and diplomatic instruction was intensified as I joined a program in the US teaching professional communication skills to naturalized US citizens. Not only were these experienced professionals, but they had also been in the United States for several years and had developed sophisticated compensation strategies that led many of them to overestimate their English proficiency. Several of these accomplished adults experienced an identity crisis when faced with the reality of their language weaknesses, and only a gentle approach could reach them.

 

Keys to Gentleness: Vulnerability & Understanding

One key to treating people with gentleness is having personal humility and vulnerability. Brené Brown, in her TED Talk “The power of vulnerability,” describes how the people who are best able to connect with others have embraced vulnerability, have owned their imperfections, and have developed a humility that enables them to approach others with kindness and gentleness.

I believe a key to treating people gently is to understand the other’s perspective. In his book Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life, Professor Stuart Diamond describes how important it is to connect with people you are attempting to work with, not on the basis of cold reason but through truly understanding what is important to them.

He explains that when attempting to persuade someone, “you have to understand the pictures in their heads: their perceptions and feelings, how they view you and the rest of the world.” He encourages his students (and readers) to ask a lot of questions when they are dealing with people they would like to persuade. He goes on to list fourteen elements of effective communication, most of which relate to showing the other side that you value and respect them.

Of course, not all communication is created equal. In my classes, we spend some time talking about the value of “diplomatic language” – speaking in such a way as to soften statements and to express value for the other person through polite language. The more tense the situation, the more “diplomatic” you need to be. This is not so much about how you feel; you may be very upset, but raising your voice and using overly direct language will not enable you to connect with the other person. However, “a gentle answer turns away wrath.”

 

Take It Deeper

If we want to connect with people with different perspectives, we must approach them with gentleness. Otherwise, we risk coming across as harsh and judgmental.

I highly encourage you to begin practicing gentleness in all your communications.

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