Author Archives: Angie Weinberger

 

In this series we introduce you to the seven principles for intercultural effectiveness. You have been informed about Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in earlier posts. Principle 6 is12736872_1059869644055644_866549060_o

“I listen to my heart.”

In case of doubt I listen to my heart. Often in intercultural interactions it is hard to understand with the mind what is really going on. If you learn to listen to your heart though, you might see further and clearer. You will feel a deeper connection with people no matter what cultural background they have and no matter what their values are.

A good practice to open your heart is the active meditation by Osho. Alternatively, you could help others every day without expecting anything back.

Goat Days

As I mentioned in an older post it can be a burden to be an interculturalist. The same kind of burden a Obi-Wan Kenobi experiences or Frodo Baggins.

We interculturalists perceive cultural differences in a way that go far beyond the stereotype. Our knowledge feels very limited even though we know more about cultural differences than the average president.

Being an “interculturalist” (which is not even an official word), you watch and observe the world with a set of “magical contact lenses”. These give you a clear sight into how the world works (and if this is not how the world works you construct the rest around it.)

Once in a while you wish you could go back to the Shire. You wish you could go back to the time when everything seemed blurry in black and white, when the world seemed easy to understand.

You want to be in that presidential mindset where you can polarize and put people in drawers. Those drawers you pulled with the half-knowledge you had about people, their cultural background, their education, their personal story and their personality.

I want to encourage you to have an opinion when it comes to intercultural issues. I stopped being “politically correct” on all media.  I don’t want to cry at breakfast tables anymore when people I hardly know share how they feel about bombing Palestine or about refugees. I don’t want to hide my personal life any longer because I am afraid I might lose a client when they know that I live with a Pakistani cook. I don’t want to care what people say when they see a female breadwinner who owns nothing but her inner happiness.

My heart has been with the underdogs ever since I grew up in the children’s home my parents ran. In high school, I was considered “too social” for a lot of people and I always thought of myself as a moral institution. I was going to go into the arts that I was sure of. But life came in between.

In university, as the president of our AIESEC local committee, I was once told I was “too engaged” for our cause of intercultural understanding. Like I did not have enough self-interest as a normal business student would have. I did not connect with many students in my class. Most of my friends were from AIESEC.

Working in banking and other companies of capitalist structures I often felt a bit out of place. I tried to find meaning in what we did. When we made staff redundant in Germany, we supported them to find another job at another company. When we outsourced to India, I saw the positive effect on the job market in Bangalore and Mumbai. I tried to tell myself that as long as individual lives get better through my work I cannot be on the wrong path. But more than once my personal values of fairness, equality and honesty were challenged.

One of my best managers told me, that I had high moral values and that this was probably why I sometimes struggled in the corporate world. It sounds strange but my moral attitude and tendency to humanism got in my way in my career (plus the gender I am born into as being female).

Also, the conviction learned in school that you have to be truthful and honest. Let’s say in the corporate world you have to be diplomatic and understand political behavior.

I went to my first SIETAR conference in Germany in 2002 and felt at home.  I met other “interculturalists” at the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication in Portland, Oregon. I will never forget the deep connection I felt with everyone I was having lunch with. It was a revelation. After these encounters, I understood that there was nothing wrong with how I saw the world. I understood that there are people thinking and feeling like me out there. I was probably just in an environment, that was not ready yet for a more humanistic way of working with people.

In the meantime, I have my own business grounded on intercultural understanding.

I have made a decision to drop political correctness and be the person that I am.

My clients appreciate, that I am honest with them. For a career in corporate this might be an issue but I am beyond that. I want to say what I want to say. If clients, companies or Facebook friends decide that they don’t like that I will let them go.

I want to work with clients who share my values. In the first years of my business, I was concerned that I could lose clients when I share what I believe in. I have noticed, that this is my fear of rejection rather than reality.

In intercultural training, we often tell people to talk about sports or the arts over dinner in other cultures. While this is a non-threatening approach and works 80% of the time, it can also get dull.

As a German I want to dig deeper. I want to understand what drives people and how they really think. I don’t want a glossy, shiny or otherwise manipulated version of the person I am sharing a meal with. I want them to be able to tell me their truth. If a friend feels racist behavior because she has brown skin, I want her to share this with me. I want to speak openly to my clients and friends.

I will continue to fight for minorities and refugees, migrants, gays, lesbians and women. And you know why? Because this is who I am and this is why I was born into this world.

 

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 Principle 1, Principle 2, Principle 3 and Principle 4 in earlier posts.

Principle 5 is called

“I trust even if I had been hurt before.”

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There are many instances in intercultural communication where we might have been hurt, where our way of trusting was hurt or where our values were challenged. We could have been misled by a carpet seller or a cab driver. We could have paid too much for a service just because we don’t really understand how the culture works or how the people behave in this culture. We could have thought that people were nice to us while they just made a business deal.

This misperception has led me to a number of learnings. One of the learnings is never to tell a driver in another country to take me shopping, because I will end up buying a carpet. I also learnt to negotiate the fare price with rikshaw drivers before I get on the rikshaw.

Still, I work with the assumption that people are good and that they are just trying to provide for themselves and their families. They are not out there to kill me or take away all my possessions. I am careful when I travel but I still trust people because it has led me to interesting encounters and helped me make great connections. I am not saying you should trust blindly but at least assume positive intentions of others.

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 Principle 1, Principle 2 and Principle 3 in earlier posts.

Principle 4 is called

“I give people a third and fourth chance.”

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One key mistake a lot of my clients make before they come to our programs is that they send applications through websites in Switzerland without having any personal connections in the company. It’s very hard to find a job in Switzerland like that. Most candidates are very unforgiving or even worse start to doubt themselves. They do not yet understand how the system works and that Swiss or German speakers tend to be hard to approach at first. That is why we often refer to their cultures as being similar to coconuts.

The truth is that multinationals hire through their websites and their own recruiters. They have an inclusive policy and every candidate gets a fair chance but these companies are global corporations and the majority of companies in Switzerland are small and medium-sized. In fact the majority of jobs are not advertised openly in Switzerland. You need to learn the ropes. You need to give people more than one chance to gain your trust and you need to be forgiving if they come across as factual or even aggressive.

12695279_1056623704380238_1847484206_oIn 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 principle 1 and principle 2 in earlier posts.

Principle 3 is called

“I am more compassionate.”

 

As an intercultural coach I find it very important that you work with an open heart. This means that you show more compassion than the average person. If you have a friend or a relative in the family who is suffering from a health issue or less able to make a living than you are how about you spend a bit of time with that person and find out how you can help him or her. Another good way to show your compassion is by helping those who need support in our society: Children, elderly citizens, the homeless and refugees or migrants. Serving others with compassion is a spiritual exercise that will help you become more effective across cultures as well.