Find “The Spoon Full of Sugar” for the Unfamiliar


StockPhoto 1 - Sugar and CoffeeAn executive expressed her discomfort during a lunch hour with a colleague from a different culture recently. This is the moment that can make you hold your breath, describe your experience vividly to colleagues, friends and family, and think if you could go through a similar experience again.





Here are other experiences that get mentioned:

  • I really need to get used to this food if I am to have more dinner meetings like this.
  • She was waiving around with the knife (in her right hand) when she got excited during the meal.
  • One must dress rather formal to these events.
  • There was not enough time to eat and get to know each other.
  • He kept putting his shoe right at my face.
  • He talks so loud that the entire room can hear.
  • They share their personal lives on the company social media site.
  • Traffic was awful.
  • The buildings feel so tall.
  • I don’t know if I can work in this open work space environment.
  • How can I get used to this kissing in business encounters.
  • They don’t use deodorant here.


Can you think of similar experiences from your life and how do you manage these situations?

Last week we mentioned the importance of strategic networking. These situations are experiences that can present themselves during networking. They don’t sound very fun. Yet with a shift in your mindset, they can turn into very enriching experiences:

Let yourself be surprised. Are you possibly limiting yourself by judging situations according to your own culture? You may be missing out on the surprise effect of international networking. Make sure to have a very open mind about international/multicultural encounters. These encounters actually help develop a rich repertoire of expressions and behavior. We can let ourselves be surprised by novelty. There is a chance you will enjoy adopting the unfamiliar behavior to your global business repertoire once you get to know the person or understand the situation more.

Identify the fun. Dive into the awareness world. What don’t you like in the situation and why does the situation present itself? Is there anything positive you can focus on such as the enthusiasm of the other person?

Communicate effectively. Let’s assume that trust exists but there is something that bothers you in a situation. You may choose to say this very clearly as in “Could you please speak quietly” or you may like to deliver your message via a story as in “ When I was in this country the custom was to kiss on the cheeks multiple times. I tend to greet with a hand shake. What are the different ways you like to greet?” The right type of approach will depend on your analysis of the situation, if a cultural adaptation is needed and your level of comfort.

“Recognize, Respect and Reconcile”, the approach recommended by Fons Trompenaars goes a long way in international/multicultural interactions. Reconciliation can also be seen as a negotiation process to resolve a conflict.

How do you find joy in unexpected business encounters and turning them into productive experiences? Please share.

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