Your automatic pilot, an intercultural minefield – An opinion piece by Yvonne van der Pol

It’s the psychology, stupid!

– you could say after reading the World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society and Behavior, in which great attention was paid to the psychological and social aspects of human behaviour. One revealing response to it was: “Experts, policy makers and professionals should be fully aware that they, too, form part of social and cultural influences. Their way of thinking is, in fact, automatic”.

Who is pushing the buttons?

That is a reaction with a far-reaching impact. The real issue is that we, given the nature of that automatic character, seldom stop to think about it. Do we not all think of ourselves as being rational, genuine and analytical professionals? For part of the time, that is definitely the case, but we are running much more on auto-pilot than we realise or would care to admit. Our brains have been programmed so that we, in our daily lives, quickly and automatically react to familiar patterns: our intuitive mind. The other part, the reflective mind, just hobbles along somewhere behind. Hence, small things suddenly seem to be of intercultural importance, which can lead to some particularly surprising interpretations and maybe even a few interesting twists and turns along the way.

Reflections on Intercultural Craftmanship Yvonne’s new book

Insignificant actions

Now, I randomly take a look at a typical day in the life of a German professional on a business trip to Ghana, who completely automatically:

  • gets in to the front seat beside the taxi driver, chit-chats with him and, in doing so, asks a lot of questions
  • waves to an old acquaintance, but tells the driver to keep going, because he is, after all, on the way to his next appointment
  • informally addresses his older, Ghanian friend and colleague by his first name in the presence of others
  • vents his opinions freely during a meeting
  • after dinner with his new business partners in the evening, wants to return to the hotel early so he can check his e-mail.

And here is the intercultural harvest of the day:

  • the driver asks himself, with fear and trepidation, what the underlying message was from this senior German representative, but it almost certainly will not be a positive one. “He does not sit in the back as he should, but instead, he sits beside me (causing me embarrassment, my status as a driver is at risk). He asks me too many questions (what does he want from me?)”.
  • the acquaintance, who was only briefly waved at, wonders to himself what is happening: “We have not seen each other for ages, yet he just drives on! What have I done wrong? There must be something seriously wrong, or else he would have stopped”.
  • the older, Ghanian compatriot, with whom he indeed has a good bond, takes offence at the fact that he was not addressed more respectfully, whilst in the company of his colleagues.
  • the members of his new partner-organisation is somewhat shocked by his open and frank opinions, as they are only trying their best to successfully work together towards a better future, thus suddenly getting an emotional knock-back in their confidence, in him, and in their working relationship as a whole. “Ownership and collaboration were the starting points? His strong opinions probably represent the wider vision of the organisation back in Germany. How do we proceed now, if there is no room left for us, if the harmony between us has been so disrupted? Do they even trust us?”
  • the aforementioned partners are unpleasantly surprised after their successful business dinner has finished, when they suddenly see he is already standing up to leave the table, as he clearly has no time to spare to stick around and work on their mutual relationship on a more sociable level. They get the feeling, “E-mails are more important than we are”, and so, their confidence takes another hit.

Social automatic pilot

The problem with our intuitive mind is that it is very rapid. Before you know it, you have already put your foot in it. Why? Because from a young age, you have primarily learned this behaviour subconsciously. It is a social automatic pilot that works on the basis of recognising patterns you have previously encountered. But take note: cultural patterns from your context, and not per definition from more unusual environments. And therein lies the issue: in a different cultural context, you actually have to think first before you act. Moreover, precisely about those minute details, because they can have totally unexpected and far-reaching consequences. Consequences including those like the perception of other people with regards to your intentions, what you think, what you want, how you view the situation and if you can be trusted. And not only you as an individual, but also, especially, if you are representing your organisation and even your country.

Your routines under a magnifying glass

Reflecting on your own auto-pilot is the only way to avoid the intercultural minefield. And that requires a ‘mindful’ approach: being in touch with yourself, and with the world around you. Carefully observing signals and actively listening are crucial to this process. Only then will you be able to respond quickly and adequately, possibly completely differently to how you otherwise may have reacted automatically. You will quickly see how interesting that becomes!

Blog © Yvonne van der Pol (2017) Reflections on Intercultural Craftsmanship

Her book Reflections on Intercultural Craftsmanship is available on Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Intercultural-Craftsmanship-Yvonne-van/dp/9402168419/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510829993&sr=8-1&keywords=yvonne+van+der+pol&dpID=51txOkfWOLL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

AND THERE’S MORE…

Train-the-trainer Programme Mind, Brain and Culture 22-24 February 2018

The field of cognitive neuroscience is literally revolutionizing our understanding of culture and mind, and it creates challenges and opportunities for intercultural trainers and educators as the paradigms shift. In close cooperation with Joseph Shaules, author of the Intercultural Mind, and intercultural colleague Matthieu Kollig, we organize a train-the-trainer programme Mind, Brain and Culture. We will introduce new research in culture and cognition that can inform intercultural training and education. We are going to reexamine basic concepts from this new perspective, including: definitions of culture, cultural difference, bias, language and culture, culture and identity. And of course, we will transfer and apply these new concepts to your specific training context.

This train the trainer course is a blended course. The 2-day seminar will be organized from Thursday evening February 22 until Saturday afternoon February 24, 2018 in Burg Reichenstein Germany. Mid-January we start with 4 weeks online learning and cooperating. Half of the places are already taken. If you like to know more, download the flyer at http://bit.ly/T4T-InterculturalMind or contact us directly at ws.interculturalmind@globalpilots.de

Yvonne van der Pol

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Independent Trainer Mini Series – Trust based Marketing – Blog Post 5 by Matthew Hill

A little Marketing magic goes a long way

The word marketing can make us dizzy with its many different meanings – and no one should claim to understand them all.

Notepad with word marketing concept and glasses

For the purposes of this short and pithy post, marketing refers to the information you put out there in the web-o-sphere (technical term) to influence and inform your potential customer base of your offering, your persona and the value of your work to them.

Coffee to Sex and Marriage

BTW – this is the first rule of marketing – be as provocative as you dare to grab people’s attention – if they don’t read you, you don’t exist for them.

The phrase “coffee to sex” refers to the pathway of engagement. At each stage there is an appropriate interaction for them to expect from you or for you to offer to them. Mess that up and you end up looking foolish.

Trust based communication

Linked the pathway of engagement is the trust ladder. If I am low on your trust ladder I cannot ask you for much. If we are both high on the trust ladder we can exchange value for mutual gain – this is witnessed in the exchange of ethical and sustainable business.

“Know, Like & Trust”

The social media marketing guru, Penny Power OBE, coined the phrase and wrote a book describing how a consumer of information behaves and what they need to receive in order to become a healthy, happy and profitable customer of yours.

*Know – Here we move the unsuspecting prospect from a position of not knowing you exist to knowing that you both exist and have something to say that they need to hear. You also need to grasp the audience’s attention. Your well expressed purpose in a punchy headline will normally work a treat. (See the previous post 2. on Identity.)

*Like – Now you get the chance to express your wonderful and warm personality in print, via video and in person so that the audience can fall in like with you and see your true and authentic self. Being funny, offering wise insights, providing stories that entertain and inform – all add to the emotion of liking you.

Two modern entrepreneurs partners doing thumbs up gesture for celebrating business success. Successful modern businesspeople outside. Positive elegant man and woman smiling and looking at camera.

We buy from people we like

*Trust – Trust is a real thing – ABI – Ability, Benevolence and Integrity – You top the charts when you consistently demonstrate your depth of knowledge with solutions and skills that match your promise. When you over deliver with kindness and a positive attitude you will be perceived as benevolent. And, when you keep your word, under-promise and over-deliver you will gain a tick in the integrity box as well.

The Secret of Sequencing

Putting the various marketing communications together whilst sticking to the pathway of engagement and incrementally building awareness and trust is the magic formula that will result in an enriching flow of incoming new business enquiries.

Next

For more ideas on how establish and grow your Independent Trainer Business we invite you to join us for the Independent Trainer Consultative Selling Webinar 3 – GOING FOR GROWTH, on 5th October 2016, 6PM London time, 7PM Paris time. Register now at;

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