By Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach
It happened again. I was asked to do a presentation for a
business and the topic was to be “Memes & Emotional
Intelligence in the Work Place.”
Now I’ve been around a while – well, let’s say I’m a
weathered veteran of the world-at-large – and I know my
field, Emotional Intelligence. I’m sure I “know” what this
means, though I don’t have a clue. I immediately agreed to
do it, and I didn’t ask. As the time approached, I resisted
looking up the word “meme”. I realized I had right in front
of me the perfect living example of multiculturalism, and I
like to illustrate Emotional Intelligence situations in real
time, as we all learn more.
This is a culture clash that will require finesse. Here we
are, two people speaking the same language, both at least
somewhat versed in Emotional Intelligence, or he wouldn’t be
asking me, and experts in our individual fields (he’s the
head of HR for a corporation), but he has given me a title
that makes no sense to me, assuming that it will.
It might as well be another language. Neither of us is
ignorant, neither of us is insensitive, we are both native
speakers of English, and here we are: he is unintelligible
to me and has no idea that he is.
My task is going to require a lot of emotional intelligence.
I must figure out how to let him know I don’t know what this
means without either
(1) losing my credibility, or
appearing to insult his use of the language or his
intelligence, or his myopic view of things, or
either one of us to “lose face” in front of the group.
Of course dealing with the shame of “losing face” would also
be an EQ lesson; should we ever be ashamed when we don’t
know something? Who’s culture is that? It’s not the
culture in coaching, worldwide, and that’s one of the
reasons I like coaching. Also Emotional Intelligence is
global; we innately realize it’s something we all have in
common, and gives us a common language.
By the way, I had a Chinese client tell me the other day
that I didn’t know the concept of “lose face”. Actually I
was raised with it, as one of the most punishable offenses.
It’s what led me so easily into public relations, where I
worked for many years saving people’s and company’s “faces”
for a living.
So we have here precisely the dilemma every person from
another culture faces every day, and more and more it goes
on all day long in offices around the world.
So how do we deal with Diversity & Multicultural with
1. Learn what your own culture is, and how it differs, and
to do this you must be open to studying and learning another
culture. That’s the only way you’ll understand that people
ARE different, and HOW different.
EXAMPLE: It is proper for a person being interviewed in the
US, to make eye contact. It is not proper for an Aborigine,
in Australia, having an interview to make eye contact.
ACTION POINT: Next time you encounter someone from another
culture, instead of assuming you won’t understand them and
you have nothing in common, or they don’t know how to “do
things,” seek the “forest” of commonality among the “trees”
of diversity. There’s not a culture on earth that doesn’t
understand warmth in the eyes.
2. Get to know your own prejudices, an act of
self-awareness, which is Emotional Intelligence. Know where
they came from.
EXAMPLE: Someone growing up in the US south in the 50’s was
punished harshly for interacting with a member of another
race, at home, at school and at large. Integration was a
very difficult issue in the US and people who are in their
50’s and 60’s remember it, at a visceral level.
ACTION POINT: Next time you feel uncomfortable dealing with
someone from another culture, explore your feelings.
Acknowledge them and then trace back to why. It’s a
beginning. Acknowledge the discomfort and deal with it,
don’t act it out.
3. If someone tells you they can deal with multicultural
issues without a cluster of negative emotions (guilt,
anger, frustration, anxiety, irritation), they’re lying to
EXAMPLE: In a law firm I worked in, early on, I was
suddenly expected to do all the translating of Spanish
documents without more pay. This added 1/3rd again to my
workload, and was stressful. I’m not a native speaker, and
legalese is hard enough in your own language. When in the
office next to me sat Maria Garcia (not her real name),
reading books at her desk because she had spare time, and
speaking what I knew to be far better Spanish than mine to
her mother on the phone. Rather than go to the office
manager, I went to Maria. “Why won’t you translate this
stuff?” I asked her. “I help you with your work. You’re
far better at this than I am. I don’t get it.” She
replied, with tears in her eyes, that she’d been beaten for
speaking Spanish in first grade (common in Texas) and she
just couldn’t do it, and her hands were shaking as she
ACTION POINT: When you’re from the MidWest, and a Texan
comes toward you in way that seems threatening, braying at a
decibel level that’s rude to you, and prepares to envelop
you in what is to you an offensive bear hug, manage your
emotions. Take the time to think, and respond, rather than
react. Just as the Arab will have to, in whose presence you
cross your legs and show the sole of your shoe, one of the
most insulting things you can do to a Middle Easterner. Who
knew? Make it your point this week to starting “knowing.”
Check out my website for some multicultural resources and
learn something new. Improve your intuition – your ability
to pay attention to your gut feelings, and your ability to
read nonverbal cues – both of which are Emotional
Intelligence competencies and both of which are vital to
Back to the forest and the trees. In most interchanges, you
and the person of another culture are after the same thing.
It may be you’re working on a project together, or you’re
trying to buy something and they’re trying to sell it, or
someone would like to make friends with you and you’d like
to find the friendship. Look for the commonality of
Don’t be like my little friend Alex who comes crying to me
for his car-car, and then screams at me the whole time I’m
trying to help him out and find it!
Four Ways to Solve Workplace Problems
The root of most workplace challenges is no mystery. In fact, 90 percent of company problems boil down to lack of communication. It’s when your employees are no longer communicating effectively with one another, with customers, with you and, most importantly, with themselves.
The Difficult Client
Into each business
life waltzes the occasional difficult client. Luckily, most clients are a pleasure to work with. The pains in
the derriere are also, when you have enough experience to
recognize the type.
Business is All About Relationships
I’ve not always been successful, but I strive to have an excellent
relationship with everyone. It doesn’t seem possible all the time,
but it’s worth striving for nonetheless.