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November 22, 2010 / Astor ICS

The Limits To Communicating Internationally: Illusions

If you have travelled outside of your home country for any length of time, you may have realized that many people are not so different than you are and although places may look different and cultures behave differently, we can be understood. Now, it is essential to find a common language to communicate in, but once you do that, you are building possibilities and alliances that help you to be understood and appreciated.

We have been conditioned to believe many truths which are mostly true in our own home country. Things that separate us and place us on a higher level than other people and culture are not only unproductive and problematic for conducting business, they are illusions. They really don’t exist. Let’s take a look at a few.

We are the best. This is a big obstacle to overcome for real communication. In reality, we are not the best, we are just a little different and have special qualities that can add to the global collection of talents. Even the greatest artists and statesmen believe that their greatness is contributing rather than separating. If you are the best then someone is below. If they feel that they are not below, they won’t want to communicate with you. Thus, no deal, no agreements, no no no.

Our tradition keeps us on top. Tradition is in the past and in a dynamic environment where the landscape can dramatically change and the players become more aggressive and assertive, vulnerabilities lie everywhere. If you don’t ry to stay ahead of the competition through innovations and management adjustments, the illusion of the past will replace your hunger for the future. There’s nothing as susceptible as sedentary attitudes and denial of the present.

I do things my way and they do things their way. By separating the mental images and practices of other cultures, businesses and approaches into us and them, we distance our whole attitude towards possible international communication and successes. If you think you will merely beat them to a certain goal and you will win, you’re wrong. You may win the battle but you’ll lose an ally. In business, you have just eliminated possible customers and you never ever want to do that. Finding the bridges to different styles can bring together opposites to share contrasting styles and merge them into a stronger and more complete one that can be well positioned for successes.

The idea that illusions of our uniqueness keep us on top is a dangerous one to pursue. Before women had the right to vote (not that long ago), they were just second class citizens and you can see that keeping men in charge and on top was a dangerous weapon that imploded (and rightfully so) into many problems for men’s attitudes in the workplace that constantly had to change to be accepted. The same holds true with our international colleagues and citizens. If we are in front of the curve on drawing them together by mutual understanding and benefits, we will broaden our base, build lasting bonds and create innovation foundations for the future.

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