Lessons in intercultural communications abound every day, everywhere. Over the past few days, “my friend” learned how orientation to different jobs/careers fields can yield the same intercultural snafus found in cross cultural communications.
Whether it’s Jargon (think SEO, CEO, B-Hag, NGO, HACE), written communication styles (think Engineer vs. School Teacher) or simply the anticipated protocol for completing a project—never underestimate the cultural patterns that are unique to specific careers or job titles.
Here are a couple of real-life case studies that happened to my friends recently:
Case Study 1:
Two partners agree to co-present a concert. At the last minute, it turns out no one has committed to renting instruments.
The event planner: How can a professional band show up to play without instruments?
The music promoter: Bands from out of town never travel with instruments. How could you expect to present an out of town band without providing their ‘backline?’
Case Study 2:
One partner offers to sponsor an exhibit to feature projects of four international architects, if the other partner, a not-for-profit board, will coordinate and present the exhibit.
Five weeks before the opening it turns out the exhibit doesn’t actually exist, and production of the exhibit wasn’t included in the sponsorship. In a closer review of the budget, indeed it only included flight and lodging for the architects, shipping, the opening event and related symposia…not exhibit production.
The lay person on the Board: If you are sponsoring a program to bring in an architecture exhibit, I’d think it’s implied that the exhibit actually exists!
The architect on the Board: It’s common practice in the US that architects will produce their own exhibition materials, to maintain control. (This one is a double whammy—expectations of architect vs. non-architect, plus differing practices between architects from two different countries.)
So what do you do?
As is the same with instances of intercultural conflict, yelling at the other person may feel good initially, but it won’t necessarily yield a positive outcome.
Repeating your position over and over while making the “duh” eyes also doesn’t really help.
Recognizing that you entered the conversation with a series of implicit assumptions (no matter how logical they are to you) based on your “title” in relation to the project, does help.
1.) You’ll learn better questions to ask next time;
2.) You may listen more deeply to understand the others’ assumptions;
3.) You may learn something about another field that will help expand your value in future partnerships and interactions.
What are the underlying assumptions you carry with you? How have they come up lately?