However effective an influencer you are in the culture that you are most used to, you need to think carefully about how to influence in other cultures.
There have been three key events in my life that have made me think more deeply about this issue.
The first came when I lived in Japan for two years. Being in a different culture for a decent length of time, for the first time, made me realise that what had seemed ‘normal’ and universal to me was nothing of the sort- it was culturally and historically specific. I had to learn new rules to treat people well and to prosper. Because I worked in a school in Japan I got some very different insights into the ones I had encountered growing up about what makes an ideal student or model citizen.
The second happened when I married into a new culture. Having the opportunity to be accepted into a culture that was new to me has been amazing and lucky.
The third was when my wife and I decided to try living as digital nomads. We’ve so far lived in Spain, Germany and Portugal as well as the UK (you can check out the LinkedIn group that we run here). In each country we’ve had to find ways to influence effectively to achieve the things that we want.
In order to influence effectively in another culture I believe that you need to ask yourself three key questions:
- What is different? What are the points of difference with your own culture that you need to make sure don’t trip you up and impair your ability to influence?
- What is the same? Despite there being obvious differences between cultures- in a lot of ways people are the same. Generally people like being happy, want to be able to provide a good life for their family, like to be professional but also have a certain amount of time to ‘switch off’ etc. There are some things that will be superficially different but the same or very similar under the surface.
- What matters most? What are the things that if you want to create a good impression/show respect/be considerate absolutely must be done in a certain way? For example, I grew up in the UK and being punctual was important. However, sometimes I was late (not usually for really important things) but once I got to Japan I realised how punctuality there is even more important and changed my mindset. Once I left Japan I carried that mindset with me and now I am likely not just to be on time but early. In Japan I could have prepared for days for a business meeting, worn my best suit and be brimming with confidence- but if I was five minutes late all of my good work would have been undone.
I believe that having an appreciation of different cultures and being able to operate effectively in them is one of the things that makes the subject of influence so exciting. There is always more to learn!
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