Tag Archives: 7 Principles of intercultural effectiveness
2nd (1)
In the series “Seven Principles of Intercultural Effectiveness” I would like to show you how you can reach your targets across cultures by adhering to seven principles. We have covered the first principle in an earlier post.
The second principle is called

 “I watch my conclusion form other angles.”

It is easy to make a judgement without knowing the background and cultural assumptions behind certain behavior. If you want to become inter-culturally effective you need to learn to hold your judgement and watch your conclusion from different angles. It also helps to assume that the opposite of what you interpret could be true as well. So when you are experiencing a culture clash take note of what you believe is going on and then write down what else it could be.
When we look at discussions of the same event and read about this in newspapers with an opposing political view you see my point. You could read one journalist’s opinion and think “Yes, she has a point.”. The you read a contrary view on the events and you think “He is right as well.”. In intercultural competence we call this ability that you can deal with ambiguity. That is not always easy. Believe me. It’s a good exercise though.
Take a look at an intercultural clash experience you had. Write down conclusion A. Then write down the complete opposite. What is your experience from this exercise?
In the series “Seven Principles of Intercultural Effectiveness” I would like to show you how you can reach your targets across cultures by adhering to seven principles.
The first principle is grounded in the lost long art of trying harder and showing more patience. It is called:

“I try harder and show more patience.”

In Switzerland, we are obsessed with the concept of time. We believe in process improvement and efficiency. What I have learnt though is that in intercultural communication you cannot be efficient in the Western worldview sense of the world. You need to learn to be “inefficient” in order to achieve your goals. Achieving your goals is what you interact with people for in the business world. I am not talking about your personal life here. Let’s say you want to develop your business in India. You have a limited budget and limited resources. Also, your time is your most important resource.
Now, you want to be effective, which means you want to reach your goal in the intercultural communication with the least amount of effort and resources. This could be a contract or a deal. It would be short-sighted to only measure the end result, i.e. the signature of the deal as the process to get there will be different in India than in Switzerland. In many cultures in the world, it is important to build relationships before doing business so if you give up on your business partners because they have not bought your machines the first time you went there you might be losing a lot of good business opportunities.
For your initial business trip to India, your main target, therefore, should be to get to know your prospects and business partners from all angles of their lives. Understand what they are struggling with, what they like to do when they don’t work and meet their children. Take the time to learn about the Indian culture while you are there. Get more information on the societal status of your business partner and their religious background. Find out what they like from Switzerland and bring it. Invest in the relationship only. When they want to talk business they will let you know.
In every interaction with your Indian counterpart withhold your judgement. It might be that this person is moving a lot faster than you and has more responsibilities to tackle but you won’t notice that unless you meet them in person. Find out what their day looks like. Be personal and approachable.
Riding together

Yesterday, I had lunch with a Professor of “Intercultural Management” and I tried to explain what I am doing for a living out there in the world of Global Mobility. I struggled to explain myself even though I was speaking to a colleague. “Intercultural Coaching ” is not commonly known as a profession. There are different approaches to “intercultural coaching” and the term “interculturalist” is not used in Switzerland a lot.

What we do is coach professionals (often Expats or Nomads like you through an intercultural transition or we help them build a global virtual team from chaos to perfection. While working on your “Global Competency” can mean enhancing knowledge, changing attitude, developing skills, reflecting experience, or integrating body learning into your repertoire many business leaders still think of “intercultural competence” as etiquette.

I’ve built a brand around consulting, training and coaching global nomads in an intercultural transition, and with that, I am not talking about moving your household goods (even though I understand the stress and importance of an international move well).

I try to integrate developing intercultural intelligence and effectiveness into all our programs as I feel it is a key competence for global leaders, in client service and global team performance. I value cultural diversity and working with people from all over the globe from my home office is amazing.

The Swiss culture in my view tends to value the opposite. It’s based on excluding rather than including. If you look at how “Switzerland” was founded it is very obvious why the people learned through generations to protect each other from the enemies outside. What started with the Ruetlischwur in 1291 is still in the mindset of the culture. (I call this concept “The Circle of Trust” in my best Robert de Niro-Voice).

The other reason is that in my personal life, I spend time with people from different cultural backgrounds. The multitude of experiences and lifestyles sometimes clashes. There are situations in my life where I have to get up and leave a discussion because I cannot handle it emotionally. It often happens when differing religious and political views are at the table. While I consider myself open and tolerant I have a strong value-based attitude that is biased towards “Germanic” logic and values. My approach can get in my way. I get frustrated when clients or friends have a different approach.

As most people, I tend to overestimate my intercultural sensitivity and I am not as great in this topic when I get under pressure. As most of us, I fall back into my “cultural default” (citing Sundae Schneider-Bean, an outstanding intercultural coach, and trainer) when under stress. And while I had to admit this publicly I don’t trust easily. I have had a number of experiences in my personal life and also in work projects that make me more cautious. (And I am not only speaking of the annoying spammers on Instagram…). I have to admit that I lost money, time and my pride so now it takes a while for me to trust someone. People need to show me that they care, that they don’t have a hidden agenda, and that they are not just after my bank account. You might feel the same. Maybe you were also once in your late thirties, ready to start a family, and willing to trust more than you should have. Maybe you uprooted your life, left a great career prospect, or your mother to follow the love of your life to Zimbabwe, Zagreb, or Zurich.

And now what?

What I have learned over the years working across cultures is that we have a lot more potential to be compassionate without judging. We just need to learn to reevaluate our conclusions and judgments. We need to give people a fourth and fifth chance and we need to accept them how they are. Then we are true humans, we are able to forgive and we perform in our global teams. Sometimes it also may be hard to understand when you are born into privilege that others want to be supported mentally, financially, and with education and that we are not living in a world where everyone is equal. It takes time to accept that your passport alone can open or close doors for you and that immigration laws are not made to welcome you but rather to protect the labor market in the host country. And that these laws are often reciprocal so if your passport country decides to break ties with your host country you might be faced with issues you cannot really control.

We also might need to learn that our basic assumptions about life, love, and trust are not necessarily universal and that we cannot trust in a toxic environment or relationship. For example, if you are working for an employer where constant competition for resources, funding, or appreciation is fostered by outdated performance and compensation methods you might be running your legs off like on a treadmill but you can never be satisfied with yourself or the people you work with. Competition does not foster collaboration. Collaboration comes from a place of psychological safety and love. Managers caring for their own benefit and bonus will never create a work environment that feels safe, egomaniacs will never make you feel loved at work and your partner might just not be the right partner for you.

Life is not a Disney movie but you and I, together we can make the world a better place.

We can start in our own circle of influence. We can be role models. We can show an extra level of trust and energy. We can break down organizational silos and work together across levels. We can influence each other to create a safe working environment for immigrants. We can use our privilege to help the less privileged. We can do all that and then we won’t feel “burdened” by our intersectionality. We will feel elated and in tune with our inner voice.

Let’s raise our glasses to love and bring more peace to the world.

Kind regards


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