Four Steps to a Happier Life: Actions Don’t “Create” Reactions

Potato-PotahtoDuring our monthly webinar, attended by people working in academia, NGOs, private enterprise, and a religious community, and geographically from Russia to Egypt to the USA and quite a few points in between, one of the participants summarized for us what she had learned. Cultural Detective had taught her, she said, “that actions don’t ‘create’ reactions; interpretation of actions creates reactions.”

Yes! That is brilliant and powerful learning! And it is crucial to understand this idea if we are to develop intercultural competence. It is a prerequisite to implementing the four steps to a happier life.

“Actions don’t ‘create’ reactions.
Interpretation of actions creates reactions.”

Your Story/My Story
To understand the concept better, think about a time when you had a painful miscommunication with someone, the type of miscommunication that haunts you for days or longer. The example I’ll share with you involves a family member, but yours might involve a friend, family member, important client, or colleague. Got your example? Okay, here’s mine.

Recently, a family member took exception to a text I sent him. It was classic miscommunication. He felt I had jumped to conclusions about him, specifically, that I had falsely accused him of wrongdoing. His negative judgments and assumptions about me made me sad. This is common; there is a downward spiral that so often happens in miscommunication. We want our family, friends, colleagues, and clients to give us benefit of the doubt, to assume we have their backs. It is upsetting when, instead, they think the worst of us.

Communication is a shared process. We send our messages and usually assume that the receivers of our messages understand us. But does our intention, the meaning, as conveyed by our message match the other’s interpretation? This, of course, is the crux of successful communication!

Think about your own example. What happened? How did each of you perceive the miscommunication? How did each of you feel? What was the outcome?

My relative’s upset was real, as was mine. We can’t and shouldn’t deny our feelings and our reactions. Yet, it was especially important to me that, as a family member, we not feel negatively toward one another. One good outcome of the exchange was that I learned something new about him, and now understand an area of sensitivity for him. That knowledge will inform my future interactions, and hopefully help me to communicate with him in ways he finds more supportive. I am confident that he learned something that will inform his future communication with me, as well.

So, did my text “cause” him pain? Did his response “cause” me sadness? Did our differing communication styles “cause” frustration? No, of course not! It is the manner in which we interpret differing communication styles that can cause us frustration and can waste our time, energy, enthusiasm and resources. Your mother may have told you when you were young that your friends can not make you angry; it’s your choice to become angry or not. Differing communication styles can actually strengthen teamwork, and they can add delight to friendships.

Now, think about your example of miscommunication. Did your behavior “cause” negativity for the other person? Did their behavior “cause” it in you? Or, rather, was it the way each of you interpreted the other’s behavior—the meaning you gave to it—that caused the grief?

In my example, there was no negative energy or assumption embedded in the initial text; I had no thought of accusation. Many times, however, our innocent actions result in hurt feelings or negative perceptions, just as they can also help people feel good. In hindsight my text could have been worded better. A lengthier, more explicit text from me (or, better yet, a phone call) may not have “caused” the reaction it did.

However, it was not the text itself but, rather, my relative’s interpretation of the meaning behind my text, that provoked his reaction. We cannot control how others will perceive us, though we can do our best to improve our communication skills. The distinction between behavior causing a reaction versus our interpretation of the behavior influencing us to react in a certain way is an important distinction for cross-cultural and intercultural communication effectiveness.

THE FOUR STEPS TO A HAPPIER LIFE
So, what are these four steps to a happier life, to improving your communication with others?

Step One
The first point to remember is that miscommunication happens—every day, even between loving couples, family members, and friends. How much more frequently can miscommunication happen, then, between strangers or those who come from very different cultural backgrounds?

When we find ourselves in an uncomfortable communication situation, we need to remember not to place blame. It’s happened; miscommunication is natural and normal. But we can use it as a learning opportunity—a chance to understand more about ourselves and others.

Step Two
As the Cultural Detective Method shows us, when we find ourselves involved in miscommunication, or feeling a bit frustrated or judgmental, we are wise to take a look within ourselves. What are my assumptions? What beliefs am I using in my interpretation of events? What does the way I feel tell me about what is important to me? What values do I hold in relation to this situation, and how do I link them to appropriate behavior?

Our past experience and “common sense” (really “personal cultural sense”) cause us to interpret actions in certain ways. Becoming aware of those filters, the ways we view the world, can help us know ourselves better, to be better able to understand and anticipate our own responses, and better able to explain ourselves to others.

Step Three
Once we’ve taken a look into ourselves, it’s time to try to put ourselves into the shoes of the other. Even though we might perceive behavior as negative, let us temporarily, while we think this through, give the benefit of the doubt. What might be other, positively intended reasons that the person did what they did?

Of course, I can also consider whether I know this person to “have it in” for me. Does this person have a history of attacking me, or of acting unprofessionally? If not, the above “positive intent” exercise becomes even more important.

Step Four
Finally, it’s time to reach out and take action to resolve the miscommunication. Preferably,  this includes a combination of apologies for discomfort, questions that seek to understand, explanation of intent, and summary of what has been learned. It should, also, ideally culminate with a path forward: how we’ll try to communicate more effectively with one another from this point on.

Looking at the above four steps, you will see they incorporate the three capacities that the Cultural Detective Model teaches us:

  1. Subjective Culture: Knowing ourselves as cultural beings
  2. Cultural Literacy: Empathy and the ability to “read” the intentions of others
  3. Cultural Bridging: The ability to bring out the best in ourselves, others, and the organization or community

If you haven’t yet joined us for one of our monthly webinars, please do. Those attending receive a complimentary three-day pass to Cultural Detective Online, a tool that can help you integrate these four steps so that they become second nature in your daily life. And, please, share the invitation with your friends, colleagues, and clients! Let’s make this world a happier and more interculturally effective place!

Part of the #MyGlobalLife Link-Up

Cuisine, Culture and Performance

10438640_715299471895885_8128051140435588302_n“A collective. International. Pushing boundaries. Longing to discover new cultures and exchange knowledge. Collaborative. Find your tribe. Exploring the unknown, adapting to uncertain situations, charting new territories to sharpen creativity…”

Does this sound to you like a Cultural Detective? It’s actually taken from the home page of the Gelinaz! website, a collaborative of international chefs doing amazingly creative things. I sooooo want to attend one of their dinners!

Below is a short introductory video to what they are all about:

The group’s tagline is “Cook. Art. Performance.” They last got together at the Villa Panna estate in Tuscany in July for a four-hour, 13-course feast, including a dish with seven varieties of Latin American potatoes, a soup of pig’s blood and chocolate, tripe with wild mushrooms, and crispy pig’s head. Ok, that probably would not have been my favorite meal.

The name “Gelinaz!” pays campy homage to the virtual band “Gorillaz,” who play a fusion of rock, hip hop, reggae, electronica and pop. Like the band, Gelinaz! members combine different genres of cooking in experimental ways. They aim to “build bridges between cuisine and other means of expression,” according to Andrea Petrini, the Italian food writer and founder of the group.Thus far their meals have included Japanese dance, a violinist playing Iron Maiden, and various topless performances.

Gellinaz! reminds me of the myriad of innovative ways you are using Cultural Detective to build intercultural competence in NGOs, communities, faith traditions, at universities, for study abroad, and in multinational organizations. Be sure to share with us your designs and ideas! Together we can change the world.

User Tip: Bridging Cultures

Bridging Cultures2
One of Cultural Detective‘s valued and respected long-time users, Meg Quinn, recently shared with us a new technique that she has developed for introducing her learners to building more powerful cross-cultural bridges.

When she introduces the Cultural Detective Worksheet, Meg asks participants to think about three different approaches:
  1. Assimilation (bridging from just one side)
  2. Adaptation (“true” bridging in the CD sense), and
  3. Time Machine (What might the parties do/have done before all this came to a head? This is how some of the author-suggested Bridges in the CD series are framed.)

Meg has found that such an introduction helps learners to move beyond their initial responses, think more deeply and more creatively, and develop bridging ideas that are more realistic and enduring.

Thank you for sharing, Meg!

Trainers and educators love the flexibility that Cultural Detective allows them. It is easy to adjust your presentation to help your audience think in more innovative ways, as Meg has done. And whether working with students, experienced professionals, government officials, or your local community group, you can always find a “hook” that resonates with the participants and gives them the opportunity to understand and apply the CD Method to their personal lives.

Readers, please be sure to share with us your tips, designs, and experiences; we are happy to pass them on.

Recent Upgrades to Cultural Detective Online Enable Even Better Collaboration

QuickViewLensesOur most recent update incorporates significant changes to the user incident sections and the group functionality, in direct response to feedback from CDO users, so please keep those ideas coming! At Cultural Detective, we are always working to improve our flagship product, Cultural Detective Online.

conference_calling_support_headerQuick View Lenses: A New Tab On The Main Menu Bar
Maybe you are in a meeting, and you can just feel you are not quite connecting with the person sitting across from you, or the people on the other end of the conference call. Now you can quickly and easily open any of the Cultural Detective Values Lenses to use as clues in deciphering the dynamics of your conversation, and to help you bridge the communication gap!

The new Quick View Lenses tab is visible anytime you are logged into CD Online, located just to the right of the Package tab. Clicking on this tab will open a new browser window with a drop-down menu listing all Lenses in the CD Online system. Clicking on a Lens name will open that Values Lens in the new browser window.

Group Functionality: New Features
The real magic of cross-cultural collaboration is in using our differences as assets to innovate, create and solve problems—together.

You already know you can subscribe to Cultural Detective Online either as an individual user or as a group. A group may be a team that works together on a project, or a class of students. The group leader may be the team leader or the class instructor.

Collaborative Incidents and Debriefs
Group members have the option of sharing a critical incident they upload with the members of their group with one easy step. The Group Administrator will receive an email requesting approval of the incident for group-wide publication. After publication to the group, the incident creator’s name will be listed as having authored the incident.

A group member now is able to invite other group members to collaborate on an incident. This is a terrific new feature! Let’s say I’m working together with Ana on a project. I upload a story about my collaboration with Ana. She is now able to edit my incident draft, making sure it’s also accurate from her perspective. Then, together, we can debrief what happened: she gives me insight into her intentions, and I let her know what I was intending. Together, we enter interpersonal bridges—what each of us can do to reach out to the other while contributing our personal best, and systemic bridges—what our organization can do to support our efforts and encourage our intercultural success.

Group members can also create a Sample Debrief to aid other group members. The Sample Debrief will appear just like a Sample Debrief written by an author. Collaborators on an incident may also contribute to its debrief. We strongly recommend that group members create a Sample Debrief for each shared incident to aid fellow group members in their learning.

Our recent upgrade included MANY other great additions to the CD Online system. For just US$99/year, or US$150/two years, your individual subscription gives you access to the 60+ packages in our system, and permission to project its contents to your classes, trainees, or coaching clients. I can’t imagine where you can get better value for your investment!

Please join our 130 authors in putting this incredibly robust tool to good use, to build respect, understanding, inclusion and teamwork in your arenas of influence. Want to learn more about what Cultural Detective Online can do for you and your organization? Join us for our next free 90-minute webinar—click here to view the full schedule through the next few months.

Ecotonos: Simulación Intercultural en una Clase de Negociación en Colombia

Sixth semester students (juniors) David, Lina, Gabriela and Ximena helped facilitate the simulation

Sixth semester students (juniors) David, Lina, Gabriela y Ximena helped facilitate the simulation

Ecotonos: An Intercultural Simulation in a Negotiation Class in Colombia

La Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogotá, Colombia, recently utilized Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures for the third time in its International Negotiation class. The professor, Fernando Parrado, gave four of his experienced students the opportunity to act as co-facilitators, and they learned so much from the experience. Below is their report.

Translation to English by Dianne Hofner Saphiere follows the Spanish original.

AGUILAS

Las Águilas estaban conformadas por un grupo total de diez estudiantes, por lo que en primera estancia se repartieron las fichas de valores a cada uno de los integrantes. Los valores e acciones de las Águilas eran:

  • Tú crees que es grosero expresar tu propia opinión demasiado fuerte. Tú prefieres preguntar la opinión de los otros antes de afirmar la tuya y frecuentemente ilustras con ejemplos los puntos que los demás han dado.
  • Cuando una persona te dice algo que tú has escuchado antes, tú aplaudes. Miras sobre la cabeza de las personas cuando deseas demostrarles que estas en desacuerdo.
  • Para entender completamente que está diciendo alguien, tú interrumpes, aclaras y resumes.
  • Tú crees que todo se mueve a su propio ritmo y que el tiempo es artificial. No te das prisa con las decisiones o tareas sino que prefieres que esta se desenvuelva. Los relojes o tiempos de referencia te hacen sentir incómodo.
  • En discusiones tu estas más cómodo parado o sentado al menos a un brazo de distancia de las otras personas. El contacto físico es extremadamente incómodo para ti.

Después de entendidos y discutidos los comportamientos a seguir por las Águilas, se realiza la creación del mito por parte de todo el grupo. Los miembros fueron muy creativos y relacionaron los valores con el nombre del grupo (las Águilas), determinando así que se habían independizado hace poco tiempo, y que además su Dios era el águila, lo que determinaba su necesidad de espacio, no contacto físico, y comportamiento sumiso ante la opinión de los demás.

20140407_075252

Posteriormente se inició la construcción de los puentes. Los miembros decidieron recurrir a otros recursos, además de los ya otorgados por los facilitadores, como sus sacos.

Luego se realizó la mezcla de los participantes. Las Águilas fueron determinadas a ser un Joint Venture, por lo que cinco participantes del grupo de los Zantes se unieron a las Águilas, de la misma manera que cinco integrantes se fueron a los Delfines y a los Zantes. Dado así el grupo quedo conformado por cinco Águilas y cinco Zantes. La cultura de los Zantes era absolutamente opuesta por lo que la continuación del puente fue un reto, mas sin embargo a pesar de las diferencias, todos participaron activamente y sacaron adelante el proyecto.

A continuación se realizó la presentación del mito por parte de uno de los participantes, y luego se realizó la retroalimentación de la cual el grupo tuvo las siguientes conclusiones:

Los elementos que ayudaron tener mayor efectividad y colaboración entre las dos culturas:

  • Ambas culturas saben escuchar.
  • Ambas culturas trabajan en grupo con un fin común.
  • A pesar de la diferencia cultural, había tolerancia lo que no genero conflictos, por lo que el trabajo en equipo fue flexible.

Los elementos que impidieron tener mayor efectividad y colaboración entre las dos culturas:

  • La cultura de las Águilas era muy flexible al tiempo, por lo cual el tiempo no fue aprovechado de manera efectiva. “El tiempo vale oro”.
  • La diferencia y falta de conocimiento del lenguaje verbal y corporal de cada una de las otras culturas
  • La diferencia en la afectividad y contacto físico por parte de cada una de las culturas

Las Águilas plantearon tres estrategias que hubieran ayudado a los grupos a entenderse mejor y utilizar las habilidades de cada uno de los miembros fueron:

  • Tener un contacto previo con la otra cultura, para entender y comprender los diferentes comportamientos.
  • Reemplazar el lenguaje corporal por lenguaje verbal, para lograr un mayor entendimiento.
  • Tener clara la tarea a realizar para poder planificar y realizar de manera correcta.
  • Implementar la división del trabajo.

Por último el grupo realizo el siguiente mapa de procesos para evidenciar el proceso vivido.

20140407_093659

DELFINES

La personalidad de los Delfines los describe como una cultura apartada que no les gusta tener contacto con otras culturas, aparte de esto siempre quieren tener siempre la razón motivo por el cual cuando van a comunicarse con otros es más difícil llegar a un acuerdo, en el trabajo se evidencio cuando hubo cambios de culturas que era complicado llegar a aportar algo a esta cultura.

Los Delfines estaban armando su puente, todos los integrantes tenían un cargo y así fueron armando su puente, todos se entendían bien y cuando no estaban de acuerdo lo hablaban y rápidamente llegaban a un acuerdo para beneficiarse todos, entre la cultura nunca hubo un problema o discusiones por las decisiones tomadas.

20140407_083401

Cuando las dos Águilas intervinieron este grupo para continuar armando el puente pero como había mayoría de Delfines se evidencio que las Águilas quedaron de lado discriminadas, ya que los Delfines no les gusta tener interacción con otras culturas, es claro que cuando hay una mayoría vs minoría siempre la mayoría va a tomar las decisiones y la minoría va a tener que adaptarse a estas decisiones.

En el momento en el que a los grupos se les puso a mirar las fortalezas y debilidades de la interacción con otras culturas los Delfines se dieron cuenta que las fortalezas que esto trajo para armar el puente fue que tanto las Águilas como los Delfines tenían un tiempo flexible el cual hizo que ninguno tuviera un choque ahí, también los Delfines debieron reconocer el trabajo de otra cultura que quiso intervenir para ayudarlos y por ultimo tuvieron que tener respeto y tolerancia hacia las Águilas, no hay mejor comunicación que saber hablar pero más importante es saber escuchar.

20140407_094511

Las debilidades que los Delfines encontraron al interactuar con las dos Águilas que llegaron al grupo fue que había falta de comunicación ya que las dos culturas se comunicaban de forma diferente, además se notaba un impedimento entre las dos culturas ya que la distancia era muy notable. Sin embargo, pudieron armar el puente y al finalizar el logro fue compartido entre Águilas y Delfines.

20140407_085533

ZANTES

En el juego de simulación intercultural el grupo tres era el grupo de los Zantes, el cual estaba conformado por diez integrantes.

La primera actividad que se realizo fue escoger algunas cartas de reglas culturales y con estas se creó una nueva cultura con las acciones dados, para ello tenían que crear un mito explicando cómo nació la cultura. Las que escogimos fueron las de color naranja las cuales representan los gestos y el contacto con los ojos (hacer sonar nuestros dedos y mirar fijamente), azul clara que eran los estilos de escucha (sabían escuchar y hablan cuando el otro terminaba), el color rosado representa contacto (se caracterizaban los Zantes porque les gustaba el contacto con los demás), realizaban gestos mientras hablan para ayudar a los otros a entender, y por ultimo estaba la carta beige que era la orientación al tiempo (eran muy rigurosos con el tiempo, para ellos este valía oro). En el desarrollo de esta primera actividad se pudo notar que dentro del grupo había integrantes con personalidades muy distintas, ya que algunos estaban muy concentrados en el juego y muy participativos, mientras que otros miembros del grupo solo estaban escuchando y no aportaban ideas sino al contrario hacen lo que otros compañeros decían. Con el tiempo todos los integrantes empezaron a practicar sus características culturales respectivas y finalmente para esta actividad trabajaron muy bien porque todos se familiarizaron con sus valores (que eran iguales) por lo cual no existió ningún conflicto.

20140407_084830

La segunda actividad que se realizo fue la de crear un puente con unos materiales que los monitores suministramos al grupo, el puente debía ser innovador y confortable. Al comenzar el puente el grupo trabajo muy bien ya que todos se escuchaban y trabajaban efectivamente para poder realizar un buen trabajo, a cada instante se percibían los valores del grupo porque constantemente los estaban practicando y utilizando para realizar su trabajo. Cuando ya tenían la mitad del puente el grupo fue dividido y a los Zantes llegaron integrantes de los Delfines y de las Águilas, con los cuales se pudo evidenciar el impacto cultural de estos nuevos integrantes ya que tenían características totalmente distintas, algunos llegaron a ser ofensivos, aplaudían constantemente, no les gustaba el contacto, todos tenían sus características culturales muy marcadas y distintas lo cual produjo que se crearan conflictos. Cuando los miembros de los Delfines y de las Águilas intervinieron en la creación del puente se pudo notar que en un principio cambiaron drásticamente la estructura del puente, construyeron algo totalmente distinto a lo que habían realizado los Zantes, pero con el tiempo esta estructura se volvía a acoplar un poco a lo que fue la de los Zantes y el grupo multicultural pudo crear un excelente puente. Los jugadores pudieron comprender el impacto que la cultura tiene en cada una de sus vidas.

Los juegos anteriores permitieron comprender al grupo el impacto que tiene la cultura, por esto es indispensable que a la hora de negociar se conozca y además se entienda la cultura con la que se va a negociar para tener la capacidad de resolver problemas y para trabajar de manera efectiva. Y finalmente la conclusión más importante es que hay que aprender a manejar nuestras conductas y valores a la hora de negociar con personas que tengan diferencias culturales.

20140407_095110

CONCLUSIÓN

En conclusión esta actividad a los 4 monitores fue muy productiva. Entendimos las diferencias culturales con unas simples actividades que nos dan un ejemplo de cómo serian una negociación o trabajo en equipo con miembros de otros países, nos enseño como escuchar y ser de mente abierta siempre para la negociación aprender lo mejor del otro y siempre respetar a los demás.

AGUILAS

The Aguilas were a group of ten students, each given rule cards. The values and actions on the Aguila cards were:

  • You believe it is rude to express your opinions too strongly. You prefer to question others’ opinions before sharing your own, and you frequently affirm the points others have made by offering examples.
  • When someone tells you something you’ve heard before, you clap. You look above the person’s head when you wish to demonstrate disagreement.
  • To understand more fully what someone is saying, you interrupt, clarify and summarize.
  • You believe that things move according to their own rhythm, and that time is artificial. You don’t hurry decisions or tasks and rather prefer that they unfold. Clocks and references to time make you uncomfortable.
  • In discussions you are more comfortable standing or sitting at least an arm’s length away from others. Physical contact is extremely uncomfortable for you.

After discussing and understanding the behaviors to follow, the Aguilas created their myth. The members were very creative and related their values with the name of the group, determining that they became independent fairly recently, and that their god was the eagle, which determined their need for space, no physical contact, and submissiveness to the opinions of others.

Next they began the construction of the bridge. The members decided to use other resources in addition to those provided by the facilitators.

After building for a while, participants were mixed. Five Aguilas left to join the Delfins and the Zantes. The remaining Aguilas were joined by five Zante participants, forming a Joint Venture group of five Zanteans and five Aguilas. The culture of the Zantes was absolutely opposite to that of the Aguilas, so the joint bridge building was quite a challenge. Despite the differences, however, everyone participated actively and took the project forward.

Upon concluding the simulation the participants presented their creation myth, and then conducted a debriefing discussion that led to the following conclusions:

The elements that helped the mixed group of two cultures to be more effective and collaborative were:

  • Each culture’s members knew how to listen.
  • Members of both cultures worked in groups to a common purpose.
  • Despite the cultural differences, there was tolerance, and participants did not generate conflict, so the group work was flexible.

The elements that impeded effectiveness and collaboration between the two cultures were:

  • The Aguila culture was very flexible with time, which meant that time was not used in an effective manner. “Time is gold.”
  • Differences in and lack of knowledge of verbal and body language of the different culture
  • Difference in affection and physical contact in each of the cultures

Group members came up with three strategies that would have helped them understand each other better and utilize the abilities of each of the members of the mixed culture:

  • Have previous contact with the other culture, in order to understand the different behaviors.
  • Replace body language with verbal language, in order to have better understanding.
  • Keep the task clearly in mind in order to plan and perform it correctly.
  • Implement a division of labor.

Finally, the group created the following process map illustrating the process they experienced:

DELFINUS

The personality of the Delfins can be described as that of a secluded culture that doesn’t like to have contact with other cultures. Apart from this, they always want to be right when they communicate with others, making it difficult to come to an agreement. This was evident in the work: when there was a change of cultures it was difficult to contribute anything to this culture.

The Delfins were assembling their bridge, all of its members had their job and were working to build the bridge, and everyone understood each other well. When they disagreed they spoke and quickly reached an agreement that would benefit everyone. Within the culture there was not a problem or discussion of the decisions made.

When the two Aguilas joined the group to continue assembling the bridge, since there were a majority of Delfins, you could see the Aguilas were a bit left out and discriminated against, as Delfins don’t like to interact with other cultures. It was clear that with the majority and minority in this group, the majority made decisions and the minority had to adapt itself to those decisions.

When the group members reflected on their strengths and weaknesses interacting with other cultures, the Delfins realized that the strengths for building the bridge included that both the Aguilas and the Delfins had a flexible sense of time, so there was no problem there. Also, the Delfins needed to acknowledge the work of the other culture, to have respect and tolerance for the Aguilas and realize that they wanted to help, that there is no better way to communicate than to know how to speak but even more to know how to listen.

The weaknesses that the Delfins encountered when interacting with the two Aguilas who arrived to the group were that there was a lack of communication due to the fact that the two cultures communicated in a different form, in addition another impediment between the two cultures was that the distance was very notable. Nevertheless, they were able to build the bridge and the accomplishment was shared between the Aguilas and the Delfins.

ZANTES

In the intercultural simulation, the third group was the Zantes, composed of ten members.

The first activity was to choose cultural rule cards to create a new culture with the actions described on them. In order to do that, the members needed to use the rules to author a myth about how the culture was born. The rules chosen included the orange color—gestures and eye contact (snap one’s fingers and stare), light blue — listening style (listen closely and speak only when the other has finished), pink—representing touch (this characterized the Zantes because they loved touching others), gesticulating while talking in order to help others understand, and the last was the beige card—time orientation (very rigorous with time, as time is golden). During this first activity it was noteworthy that there were members of the group with very distinct personalities. Some concentrated on the game and were very participatory, others in the group were only listening and rather than contribute ideas they did what the others said. With time the group members began practicing their cultural characteristics and finally they worked together very well, because everyone was familiar with their values (they were all equal) and there was no conflict.

The second activity the group realized was to create a bridge with some materials that the facilitators gave the group. The bridge needed to be innovative and aesthetically pleasing. When beginning the bridge the group worked very well together; everyone listened to one another and they worked effectively to complete the work. At each moment one could perceive the values of the group because they were constantly practicing and utilizing them during their work. When they already had half the bridge built, the group was divided and some Delfins and Aguilas joined the Zantes. At this point the cultural impact was evident; some arrived offensively—they clapped constantly, they didn’t like touching others—everyone had cultural characteristics that were very marked and distinct and that created conflicts. When the members of the Delfins and the Aguilas joined the creation of the bridge, it was noted that at one point the structure of the bridge changed drastically; they constructed something completely distinct from what the Zantes had originally been building. However, with time the structure returned to something similar to what the Zantes had intended, and the multicultural group was able to create an excellent bridge. The players were able to understand the impact that culture has on each of their lives.

The simulation permitted group members to understand the impact of culture, and that it is indispensable to recognize and understand culture when negotiating, in order to be able to resolve problems and work in an effective manner. Finally, the most important conclusion is that we need to learn to manage our conduct and values when negotiating with people who are culturally different from us.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, this activity was very productive for the four of us as co-facilitators. We understood cultural differences with these simple activities. It provided us an example of how a negotiation or teamwork could be with people from other countries. It taught us how to listen and to maintain an open mind during negotiations, to learn the best of the other and to always respect others.

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us, students! Any of our readers who are interested in Ecotonos, you can find more information or order the simulation by clicking here.

Join us in Warm Sun AND Accomplish a New Year’s Resolution

snowbeach

  • Are you tired of the cold, the ice, and the snow? Is it all getting to be too much, and you’d like a break? Are you longing for some warmth, sunshine, the beach, and vibrant Latin music?
  • Have you promised yourself that in 2014 you will spend more time on yourself, invest in your professional development, network with like-minded professionals, or expand your training/facilitation/coaching repertoire?
  • Do you realize that global and multicultural competence are requisites in today’s world, and you want to improve these vital skills and learn to help develop them in others?

You can accomplish all these things by joining us in Mazatlán Mexico in February, or in Atlanta Georgia in March for our Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification Workshop! Early bird registration rates are available, so now is a good time to secure your seat in one of these workshops.

The Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification Workshop receives high accolades from the most experienced interculturalists as well as from those with significant life experience but who are new to the intercultural field. Clients rave about the Cultural Detective Method and use it worldwide. Facilitators love having Cultural Detective in their toolkit. It helps them truly make a difference and secure repeat business from clients—ongoing coaching, training and consulting revenue—as clients commit to the continuing practice that developing true intercultural competence requires.

Many people do not realize that Cultural Detective is flexible enough to integrate nicely with existing training programs—adding depth and practical skills that learners can use immediately and build upon in the future. Participants easily remember the Cultural Detective Method, and can put it into practice when encountering a challenging situation—solving misunderstandings before they become problems!

“It is difficult to exaggerate how fundamentally important Cultural Detective has become for us. The difference between courses we conduct with and without CD is astounding.”
– Chief Academic Officer

“We have achieved, for the first time in my five years working on the Learning and Development team, a 100% satisfaction rating from our learners. Thank you, Cultural Detective!
– Chief Learning and Development Officer

“Our customer satisfaction rates have increased 30% thanks to Cultural Detective.”
– Customer Support Manager

Click here for details on dates, locations and pricing, and click here for a detailed agenda of the workshop. Sound tempting? Get out of the cold AND spend time developing your effectiveness and employability! We’d be delighted to have you join us! Of course, if you are living somewhere warm, we’d gladly welcome you, too!

The Best-Kept Secret of Successful Teams

4 Phase ModelAlmost every team and community today is diverse in some way or another: gender, age, spirituality, professional training, ethnicity, nationality… While we respect other styles and cultures, most of us still get stuck at some point where we say, “OK, we’re different; now how do we work (or live) side-by-side? How do we harness our differences as creative assets? At a minimum, how do we simply keep from driving each other crazy?”

We might work with partners who view time as flexible and events as unfolding. This may mean that, to them, deadlines are mutable and subject to change. Meanwhile, we push ourselves and our bodies, working overtime to make sure we honor our commitment to an agreed-upon deadline. While we may respect our colleagues’ view of time management on a theoretical basis, and perhaps envy them their apparently healthy work-life balance, how do we succeed with partners who don’t seem to respect their commitments to deadlines?

Perhaps we have a neighbor or even a waiter at a favorite restaurant who communicates very directly, yet we prefer a bit more indirection, thank you. While we respect their communication style, it can get irritating and try our patience.

Too often we fail to actively seek to bridge differences because we see them as something negative, as something that separates rather than unites us. Yet, by ignoring our differences, by pretending they are not there, we imbue them with great power. Eventually they can get the best of us, surprising us at awkward moments and causing frustration and tension. Our reluctance to address differences may stem from a fear that acknowledging their existence may push us farther apart rather than allowing us to collaborate enjoyably.

So, how do we transform these differences into assets? How do we convert them from something to be denied, hidden, or tamped down, into something to be embraced and used for the good of the organization and the team?

One model that has proven quite useful over the past two decades of use comes from the classic and widely used simulation, Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures. Called the “Four-Phase Model for Task Accomplishment,” this very simple approach guides us to first identify the similarities and differences at play in our interaction, verbally affirm them, spend time understanding them and, finally, explore how to leverage them.

How a specific team leverages similarities and differences will depend on the members of the team and their shared goals and realities. Each team creates its own team culture, ideally based upon and growing out of the first three phases of this Four-Phase Model.

As you can see in the graphic above, the Four-Phase Model is not linear, but rather each phase weaves into and out of the other. For example, understanding may lead to further identifying, or leveraging may lead to added affirmation.

A text description of the Model accompanies Ecotonos and provides further elaboration of the graphic:

Identifying
  • Perceiving similarities and differences
  • Establishing which differences are divisive and which commonalties unite
  • Creating self-awareness of one’s own strengths and styles
  • Appropriate balancing of the tension between sameness and difference
Affirming
  • Confirming individual commonalties and differences
  • Substantiating that difference is desirable
  • Legitimizing difference in the eyes of the group
  • Welcoming conflict and paying attention
Understanding
  • Attempting to understand the other person’s perspective
  • Stepping into the other’s shoes
  • Mirroring/exploring and discovering together
  • Probing for deeper comprehension using various approaches
  • Seeing an issue from several vantage points
Leveraging
  • Defining how team members can contribute to goal accomplishment
  • Agreeing on methods for utilizing team expertise
  • Facilitating the generation of creative solutions
  • Creating a “team” culture
  • Focusing on efficiency and effectiveness

Once people become comfortable with the Identifying Phase, they may perceive the Affirming Phase as something unnecessary, a waste of everyone’s time. “We are all adults. We don’t need to give one another kudos.”

But my extensive experience proves, over and over again, that taking the time and effort to actively engage in the Affirming Phase is well worth the investment. Proceeding more slowly allows the team to accomplish more in less time, so to speak.

Below is one video that illustrates the value of affirmation in our lives. It is pretty long, but you’ll get the idea pretty quickly and I’m confident you’ll enjoy watching it.

The Four-Phase Model is one tool that can powerfully transform conflict into productivity and innovation. And, by the way, don’t forget that you are awesome!

 

“Most Multicultural Teams are Dominated by One Cultural Group”

Or so claims Jeanne Brett in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post. I will agree that most of the multicultural teams I’ve worked with over the past 28 years have been dominated by a sub-group of members. My guess is that’s the same for most teams, no matter the visible diversity of their composition.

This idea caught my attention, and I also really liked that rather than the usual analogy of talking about multicultural teams as symphony orchestras or likening them to herding cats, Jeanne relates multicultural teams to fusion cuisine. And who doesn’t like fusion cuisine? Way to sell multiculturalism!

“It turns out that fusion teams often … break a large team into smaller subgroups, encourage informal conversations, and thereby get input from previously quiet team members. Eventually, the subparts have to be integrated back into a whole; this turns out to be less of a problem than you’d think. In the teams we studied, the trust and respect generated within the subgroups made it reasonably easy to facilitate collaboration in the larger group.”

Another of Jeanne’s points very much echoes what the six expert, globally dispersed authors of Cultural Detective Global Teamwork have to say. Many of you know what a dynamite package that is and, if you don’t, please be sure to check it out! To quote Jeanne’s post:

“We’ve come across team leaders who achieve the same result (getting the most out of all cultural subgroups) by carefully establishing team norms at the start of a project. For example, we know of one manager who was leading an English-language software-development project; English was not his first language. In fact, his English was strongly accented. When he met with the team for the first time, he told them, ‘You’ve probably noticed I have an accent. If I could get rid of it, I’d be happy to do so, but since I cannot, we’re going to have to communicate … regardless of my accent or for that matter yours. If you do not understand me, or one another, whether it’s because of accent or anything else, we need to communicate until we do understand.'”

What do you think? In what ways are multicultural teams like fusion cuisine? What are some of your tried-and-true best practices for multicultural teamwork?