It’s summertime in half the world right now, and along with loads of sunshine and lots of heat, often comes a feeling that love is in the air. At Cultural Mixology, we believe that we learn just as much from our (cultural) faux pas as we do from our successes. So we hereby present you with a sequel to last year’s tremendously popular article on “Six Lessons Learned From Dating That Will Improve Your Work Across Cultures”, which was published in Global Living Magazine.
Six (more) lessons that we are confident will continue to improve your global work…
1. There are always more fish in the sea.
While technology in many places has created a dating culture where too many options can work against us (did someone say New York?), the idea of options rarely works against us with culture. Quite to the contrary, exploring our options, particularly when it comes to interpreting a message, is an integral part of being effective. We all have a few favorite tapes (read: explanations) that play over and over in our heads. Just because our mind picks one, doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Or the right one. It simply means that we have been conditioned that way due to cultural upbringing, circumstance, surroundings or some combination of all three. Train your brain to pause and consider options. Our minds may be biased, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be.
2. Be clear about what’s negotiable and what’s not.
Successful daters prepare for more than just the date itself. They get mentally, emotionally, and spiritually clear about what constitutes the vision of the relationship they want. Anyone who is considering living or working in another culture should also take time to “get clear” and make sure their values and actions are in alignment. If you are thinking about an expat assignment, ask yourself if the location will truly support your living needs and requirements. If you are part of a global team, ask yourself how much you will need to adapt your leadership, feedback, management, and communication styles. And how comfortable you are doing it. Bottom line: Well thought-out parameters help us to be our most authentic selves. We can more easily assess when a situation is the right fit and move on quickly when it’s not.
3. It’s always better to come from a place of courage than a place of fear.
Our emotions have the potential to greatly influence both how we communicate messages and how we respond to what we (think we) have understood. When we’re worried that the work won’t get done on time, or we feel that we’re not being respected, heard, or understood, we tend to react from a place of fear. What we tell ourselves about experiences determines how we feel about them. Feelings are not always facts. Empowered leaders are courageous enough to separate the two. Otherwise, it’s likely just your issues and someone else’s issues having a date. 😊
4. Listen to your gut.
In dating, there’s always that little person inside of us trying to bring our intuition to the surface. With culture, it’s often a more overt feeling of discomfort that arises. Pay attention. That discomfort is our brain signaling to us that something is different and it’s an opportunity to learn. Even if we’re not able to capture the underlying cultural issue in the moment, we can take time at the end of each day to genuinely reflect back on those uncomfortable moments. From there we can create a strategy for the next time a similar event occurs.
5. Aim to get past it, not necessarily to get over it.
There may be some loves of our lives that we will simply never get over. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t get past them and go on to have other satisfying, even blissful, romantic relationships. Similarly, we may never agree with everything about another culture (and we probably don’t like everything about our own either), but we do need to have clarity about what we can get past if we want to effectively manage in a new situation. When it comes to issues such as corruption, religion, or women’s rights, accepting “what is” does not mean that we are giving up our personal values or don’t want to see the situation change. It means separating the business at hand from the personal place that gets emotionally triggered inside.
6. Never be bored.
The antidote to being bored on a date is being genuinely curious. It’s about asking powerful questions and observing the behaviors and thought patterns of the person across from us. It’s also about noticing our internal thoughts and feelings, enjoying the journey, and not focusing on the destination. Placing ourselves in an “asking state” rather than a “defining state” means we will always be present and never be bored. When it comes to global work, it also ensures that we stay immersed in the process of figuring out how to be most effective in another culture rather than simply focused on the end goal.
Strategizing about how we approach love and culture is about progress, not perfection. Over time, our learnings crystalize, our confidence increases, and we are able to truly “own it”. And as Brene Brown says, “If we own the story, then we can write the ending.” ❤