A recent US Army Report* emphasizes getting it right in THE CULTURAL ENCOUNTER.
The cultural encounter is an unfolding play that never happens quite the same way twice.
This is good thought for any interaction (Hi Honey, I’m home . . . ) but especially when it’s two-culture, and everyone is the foreigner. You can’t script life, and that’s more true in the Other culture.
The Army recognizes that human beings are human and situational. Right there on the road to Kandahar everyone is sizing up each other. You have to learn in the moment to read the other person in the moment . . . and his/her culture is built into the standoff or resolution, war or peace, communication or not. There are cultural factors.
It’s the same for Other-culture business and workplace interactions.
Be the expert and plan all you want. You will meet Other-culture constituents in the moment. That is where your real skill will be tested. Can you be you and allow them to be them, and yet communicate? There are innumerable, sub-surface differences to negotiate.
Like me, you might end up wasting your breath on someone whose role is below your level. What? “You know, that man is a dirt farmer,” my South Asian colleague said to me with a hint of disdain. Egalitarian and lover of humanity that I am, I am not above talking to dirt farmers, but he wasn’t the community business leader I should have been addressing. I was at mismatch before I got to cultural encounter.
[The Army Report continues . . . ] Different core cultural values come into play, not in a preordained way, but in response to the needs and perceptions of the moment.
The Cultural Encounter is a ping-pong sort of thing, partly driven by innumerable, unstated commonsenses from two different cultures.
Seize the moment of the Cultural Encounter even if you are Purpose-Driven/Spirit-Led, and a Proven-Skilled marketer, manager, negotiator, engineer, product developer or thought leader:
Failures in the global business setting—including partnerships and joint ventures—most frequently result from an inability to understand and adapt to foreign ways of thinking and acting rather than from technical or professional incompetence
–from Cultural Dimension of Global Business by Gary Ferraro, Elizabeth K. Brody
Meanwhile at home, become a learner now. Seize the God-given moment of the Cultural Encounter in multi-ethnic America where the world is at our doorstep.