Imagine that I invited you to an evening performance of the traditional dances of countries from around the world. Watching and listening, you would likely notice how some of the costumes, sounds and movements seemed familiar to you. They might remind you of the traditional costumes and dances of your own country. Of course, there would also be some totally unfamiliar dances. If I asked you how you were enjoying yourself, you would probably say that you were enjoying the diversity represented on the stage.
Now imagine that I invited you to an international professional conference related to your field of expertise. While there would be no music or country-specific costumes, what you witnessed would be no less a series of dances than that of the evening performance. Everyone at the conference would be expressing their professional opinions during their presentations in the particular way that fit with their native language. We all share that in common. All over the world people express what I call the dance of opinions. That dance is expressed in countless different forms, vocal tonalities and body postures.
In my work with clients from different cultural backgrounds, I find that they bring their native dance of opinions to writing and speaking in English. When I ask them how they are enjoying themselves, some complain about the diversity; they would prefer that others express opinions as they do. That is another thing we all share in common: we all tend to have the opinion that our cultural way is the “better” way.
When we are all speaking English as a native or foreign language, it can appear as if we are all dancing the same way, but we are not. It is as if you are dancing the tango, while others are dancing the waltz or the salsa. The question to answer individually and collectively is how to authentically embrace the intercultural diversity of the dance of opinions.
Together we can also agree to invent some steps that we can share in common. The objective of my five-step CLEAR method is to make exchanging opinions in English as a foreign language within teams, departments and companies not only easier but effortless. Ideally, we can also practice bringing a mood of lightness to our dance of opinions within intercultural business contexts. By doing that, we will not only work more effectively, but will also be able to enjoy the diversity of the dance.
As an example, Jean-Paul, a French executive in an international engineering firm, told me that due to working with me, he now observed the diversity of his colleagues’ and managers’ dance of opinions differently. Now he viewed them with amusement, rather than annoyance. He added that he was not only speaking and listening more effectively, but he was building better relationships and enjoying himself more.
In this, Jean-Paul is similar to many competent professionals I meet who work within an intercultural business context; when you do not know how to adapt your dance of opinions, your most significant competences can be overlooked and undervalued. In addition, you can begin to lose confidence in your own effectiveness. So taking the time to build new competences is definitely well worth your time and effort.
My recently published book, Dance of Opinions: Mastering written and spoken communication for intercultural business using English as a second language, will help you to see how you currently express your opinions and how you can adapt to be a better fit for your current intercultural business context. And if you’re waiting for others to adapt to you first, I invite you to read this post.