One of the joys of having a teenager at home is the opportunity it affords to practice your cross-cultural communications skills. On my 10 Tips for Good Cross-Cultural Communications, #3 is “Welcome feedback as a gift,” as a way to get insider knowledge about a particular group. My 17-year-old son is very generous with this gift. For example, on how his mom could act like more like a “normal human being.”
“Beware of making assumptions” is #1 on the cross-cultural tips list. There is ample opportunity to practice this with a teenager in the house (works on spouses and co-workers, too). Particularly on assumptions about how someone would respond in different situations. I find myself saying more and more often, “That’s not the decision I would make but I hope that works for you.”
And, most often it does. People are different. They make decisions that are poles apart. There’s no one path, no one right or wrong way to happiness, to success, to finding one’s path.
We expect differences when communicating across lines of visible difference such as age, gender or country of origin. The tools of cross-cultural communications work at home, too. They create a lens through which all of your daily communications and relationships can deepen.
One final tip that is missing from the list: “Believe what someone tells you is true for them.” This tip will be front and center in our house as the Polar Vortex hits Chicago. I will be freezing. My husband will be explaining to me how that’s impossible. Perhaps I’ll print a copy of these tips for him, too.