Being human-centred

I invite you to stop for a moment.

Feel your feet touching the ground.
Feel your buttocks resting on your chair.
Feel your arms resting on your lap or the armrests.
Now feel your inbreath and your outbreath.
Yes, right now. Your inbreath and your outbreath.
Say to yourself, ‘this is my inbreath’ and ‘this is my outbreath’.
‘My inbreath, my outbreath’.
Feel the beginning of your inbreath to the end of your inbreath.
Feel the beginning of your outbreath to the end of your outbreath.
The beginning to the end.
Can you feel this wave motion of your belly and chest? Going up and down.
Inbreath, your belly expands. Outbreath, your belly and chest fall.

How do you feel right now?


In the now, where the roots of our future lie

By the delusion of the day, we chase our ideas and plans. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by our action lists and problems. When we live at a fast pace, we easily get carried away with short-term thinking. When we breathe and feel we are breathing, we are connected to the now, where the roots of our future lie.

Hear your inner wisdom again

By feeling your body and breathing, you can just be, listen in, hear your inner wisdom again, feel your humanity, see your beauty. Feel how small you are in the bigger picture. Then you can reflect: what is the bigger picture? What is my purpose? What is our common purpose?

Increase happiness and reduce suffering

The point is that we all want to increase our happiness and reduce our suffering. Not only us, but also our colleagues, customers, suppliers, managers, friends and family members. That is what all people want and strive for. So what makes you happy? What gives you deep fulfillment? What is it that you most want in your life?

Listen to your suffering and remove the root

In silence, as we breathe, we can hear and feel our happiness and our suffering. What thoughts and patterns are causing us to suffer? What is the root of our suffering and how can we remove that root? Suffering is simply part of life. By not pushing away our suffering and pain, but exploring it and alleviating it, we can grow our happiness. “No mud, no Lotus” (Thich Nhat Hanh). Meaning: without mud, the beautiful Lotus flower could not grow.

Being compassionate

After you have consciously breathed and listened to yourself, you are ready to listen to others. You can see their beauty, the person behind the words and actions, their ideas, their desires, the suffering they are trying to minimize. What is it that they most want in their lifes? What gives them happiness? What makes them suffer? Let’s ask them. And how can you support their path to fulfillment and help them minimize their suffering? That’s compassion. That is part of compassionate leadership and human-centred leadership. Being able to be with yourself, breathing in silence and listening inwardly and to others nourish your human-centered leadership and compassionate leadership style.

By the way, everyone leads. We all lead by example.

Start small

For example, how do you want to appear in your next meeting? Take a few moments to check in with everyone. A word from everyone that reflects “where they are,” how they are doing or how they are feeling at the moment. A word they want to share. Connect and make sure they feel heard. When discussions in the office or at home get heated, feel your breath again, just for a few times, in and out. This is something we need to practice regularly. If not, we easily fall back into unhealthy patterns, haste and irritation.

Relax and build

When you are connected to the now, you can build meaningful connections and rebuild your future. Good ideas arise when you are relaxed and connected to the now. Innovations happen when you make time to stop, think and reflect. Take time for yourself and others. It will change the world for the better.

Peaches and coconut culture

The extent to which many Americans share personal information and what they share may differ from yours. How to deal with that? Recently someone kindly shared her experience about networking in the U.S. I loved her story and conclusion. She explained that on multiple occasions, the US host asked the entire group to share something personal that the participants had never shared with anyone before. “What, no way!” is what some participants thought. These happened to be two individuals from Northern European cultural backgrounds.

Sharing personal information

What is appropriate in one culture may be shocking in another. Many Americans are more used to sharing personal information and asking personal questions to strangers. Erin Meyer uses a nice metaphor for this: “Americans are like peaches”. Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner talk about the U-type (based on Lewin’s circles).

Hard shell or soft skin

Things get really interesting when a “peach” with a soft skin meets a person from a “coconut” culture. The American host may not have realized that certain topics are in the inner private space of others, well protected by the shell of the coconut. So they don’t talk about it or ask questions about it. If you do, it’s shocking. In their culture, it may even be perceived as unprofessional to share personal matters in a business setting.

Kindness ≠ friendship

Imagine that you will go to a business meeting in the U.S and you decide to share a private matter, and bravely allow yourself to be vulnerable for the sake of the process. While listening to others who are also opening up, you may start to feel, “This is incredible, I just made friends for life.” Please be aware that kindness is interpreted as friendship in some cultures, but in other cultures kindness is kindness. After sharing these special moments, it can be business as usual.

Use the American Sandwich

Let’s say you really don’t want to share personal information. How do you deal with that? You may consider explaining it. Something like, “I appreciate you breaking the ice and building trust in this way. But, wow, this is outside my comfort zone. This is completely new to me and I don’t know what to say. Where I come from, we don’t do this or only with intimates. So it feels scary and uncomfortable. So in a way I answered your question, because for me to admit this and talk about it is vulnerable in itself. I hope you understand. I appreciate your courage and that you are starting this meeting in such a creative and fresh way”. (Use the American Sandwich. Start with something positive, negative news in the middle, end with positive aspect).

Open doors

Back to the real networking story in the US. I won’t tell you the details, but the participants started to tell who they were and shared something personal and so did one of the brave women from Northern Europe. The amazing fact was that the ice was broken very quickly. She felt that she had an immediate connection with some of them who came to her and really related to what she just shared. She concluded that this made it easier to talk about businesses afterwards. It opened doors.

Online training

With the online training course Inspire & Convince Americans you will improve your relationship and communication style. If you like to receive new articles directly in your inbox, please send me an e-mail: contact@4cunity.com. If you like to read the other articles right now, please be my guest. If you like, you can download your free document ‘The 35 most appreciated compliments by Americans’.

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Build trust the American way

How to build a trusting relationship with Americans?

If there is mutual trust you can both feel safe enough to exchange, to collaborate, to come up with solutions and make a profit. How to build a trusting relationship with Americans? Don’t do it the Dutch way or the German or French or Finnish way. Do it their way. Most Americans are more likely to trust you if you first portray yourself in a positive light before talking about anything else. Their way of thinking is: how can I trust you if you don’t position yourself and therefore appear uncertain?

Here are a few steps and preconditions:

1.     Understand what they think is important by finding out what their most important values are. Consider temporarily adapting to that during conversations while respecting them and yourself. Or at least be aware of their different values, so you can interpret their words and actions as it is intended.

a.     Know how they prefer to communicate. For example, the way they give feedback. How they wrap up their messages. Their need for positivity and positive messages. Make suggestions, not advice.

b.     Understand their decision-making process. The fact that they can “backtrack” on decisions as you may interpret it. Be aware when their decision is a final decision (and not an interim decision) and when you need to take action.

c.     Show that you believe in yourself. How can they trust you if you don’t show that you trust yourself?

d.     Show that you are on top of the situation. Show actions, results or intermediate outcomes.

e.     Be active. Show eagerness and willingness. Many Americans start and solve what they encounter halfway down the road. They are optimistic, adventures, solve problems, are flexible and can act quickly.

All these aspects help you to be more approachable to them and to build a trusting relationship with Americans.

2.     Listen to their needs, ideas and solutions.

a.     Ask open-ended questions. To help them think deeper to find better answers and solutions. If you first listen to them in silence without opinion or value judgment, they are more willing to listen to you too.

b.     Don’t ask critical, analytical and direct questions in the first conversations. They will be shocked if you do.

c.     Examine and challenge your assumptions about them. Ask yourself: is this really true? Can I be 100% sure about this? Replace the negative ones with neutral and positive ones. Look for their qualities and goodness and mention them out loud.

All of these aspects help you to truly connect on a deeper level.

 3.     Understand how to open them up, inspire and convince them. Know how to open them up to you and your ideas and solutions. Understand how to inform, inspire and convince them with room for their input, but also room for your input. I have two checklists available for you on how to do that.

It will help you to be considered more trustworthy.

 4.     Bring in your ideas and solutions with customized messages. If you understand their background, their values, their needs, ideas, and you understand their preferred way of communicating, then you’ll know how to properly bring in your ideas and solutions.

They are more likely to trust your expertise. When you understand them better, you will appreciate their strengths and be more likely to trust their input and expertise, leading to better joint decisions and solutions for the customers. The results will be satisfied customers and higher profits.

For more information on how to inspire and convince Americans: https://4cunity.com/online-training. If you would like to talk more about this, please contact me marjoleine@4cunity.com, and I will make sure I get back to you quickly with answers.

What are you already doing to build a good trusting relationship? I would love to find out more.

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Listening to a report of inappropriate behavior

Suppose one of your employees comes to you to report inappropriate behavior by a colleague or to discuss something else, what do you want for him or her?

Recently, companies and their leaders in The Netherlands have become more aware of the fact that inappropriate behavior and sharing of inappropriate pictures can also occur in their organization. Unfortunately, we have seen examples on the news. Sexual remarks or other unpleasant comments towards female or male employees, made by colleagues or managers, that are not seen as appropriate by the person to whom they are addressed. What may seem like a joke or an attempt to hitting on someone, may seem threatening, unsafe or uncomfortable to another.

I wonder what you think we can do as leaders or colleagues if someone wants to talk about what happened to them?

My idea would be to create a safe space in which this person feels heard and really listened to, so that he or she feels taken seriously and supported. But how? Here are some essential guidelines and my thoughts to help you further. I would like to invite you to share yours.

Attentively present

Research says that a person feels heard when the other person (leader, colleague, listener) is attentively present. There is a difference between being present and being attentively present. Another person can see when we are present in the room, but when our mind is elsewhere. The lack of sincere attention and interest feels like not being heard.

How can we be attentively present?

The listener should take a few moments to feel his or her body. What do I feel and think? Is it tension, anxiety, panic (How should I help this person? What should I do? I don’t want this. I can’t believe this really happened!). It is normal to feel and think things like this. Be aware of it. Then take a few deep breaths in and out and try to relax a little more.

If you do not do this, you will have difficulty listening to the other person and you will unconsciously react from that tension. For example, by explaining that these things happen in a male-female environment. That it is very sad and that you feel sorry for him or her. The second part is ok, the first part is not. Avoid trying to explain or analyze things. You don’t know yet how they feel. You just have to listen to understand them. Truly listen with peace. Than you radiate: ‘I hear you. You are safe with me’.

That is how you really help them. So relax your body, so they feel that you want to be here with them, right now, in this room. Don’t keep all your muscles tense. Otherwise you look like you could run away from the situation at any moment.

Clear your ‘whiteboard’

Only when you are aware of your own thoughts, you are able to clear your ‘whiteboard’. Wipe away all the hundreds of thoughts you have in your head. If you don’t, the other person will see that you are busy thinking of an answer, but that you are not really listening and not attentively present to this person. How would that feel when they are probably at their most vulnerable and afraid of being judged? How would it feel for them if you were really attentive? That would be a blessing.

Opening the conversation

Make eye contact and have a neutral friendly facial expression (more neutral than the woman in the photo accompanying this article!), so that the person is not distracted by the thought: “My manager looks so worried, can I put my worries with him/her?”. “My manager looks like this is a happy topic, it is not.”

“Thank you for coming. How can I help you? I am here to listen to you, without interrupting, free of judgements” would be a wonderful start to your conversation. It makes you trustworthy and the situation safe.

Wait and use Silence with a capital W and S

With the question “how can I help you?” you have started the thinking process of the other person. He or she needs time to feel what they are really feeling (and that is a lot!!). They need time to have the courage and find the words to express themselves.

When they start talking and finish their sentences, wait and use silences. Thousands of thoughts fill your head, but wipe them out. The other person is still processing. Breathe out, relax your body and practice being silent. You will probably see from their face if they are still thinking or feeling. Then they are not yet ‘with you’. When they look into your eyes again, you wait. You practice more silence with a neutral friendly expression, because you really want to know what they have to say next. You really want to give them a safe space to express how worried, scared, indignant or angry they are and that needs time.

Don’t analyze

You don’t have to analyze in your head or out loud what they just said. Saying that these things do happen in a male-female environment can seem like saying, “It’s just part of life”. It feels like you are undermining what the other person is going through. You don’t want that. Let’s not underestimate the potential fears and the need for vigilance. Men may underestimate that women may feel unsafe, because in those kinds of situations they are very aware that when it comes down to it, men are often physically stronger than they are. Or when it is a manager, they may not be believed. So as a woman you may feel that you have to be smarter and deal with things like “where is he? In the hall. Then I’ll just wait with going to the copier”. “I should avoid having a meeting with him only. If I do, I better leave the door open so people can hear and see us”. “I should avoid walking to my car alone. Always with someone else”. “I feel so sorry for his wife. She seems so kind.”. This can hardly be called a relaxed work situation. A comment about that this happens in a male-female environment can then be interpreted as, “Come on, it’s not that bad to live with that tension and be in flight mode all the time. It is just part of life. He is not really going to harass you”.

You don’t have to understand every detail in the beginning, so please don’t analyze and don’t ask follow-up questions immediately. If you ask questions too soon, you interrupt them. The brain can feel that as an attack and is not free to think for itself. When you notice that they are with you and you see that they have finished talking, you can ask them the following question.

The appropriate question would be: “what more do you think, feel or want to say?”

Then again Wait, Silence, Listen and Neutral Friendly Facial Expression. You may want to ask the same questions a few times to hear what is coming next. Don’t worry that this will feel uncomfortable for them. They are in a process, moving on to the next thought and context, so the same question ‘what do you think, feel or want to say?’ will be new and fresh to them. You will help them to think deeply and process. You can even explain that you are repeating the same question, not because you are looking for the right answer, but because you want to generate their thinking.

Acknowledge their courage and openness

Suppose you have asked this question a few times and the person says that he or she has said everything he or she wanted to say, then you can acknowledge his or her courage and openness. “I appreciate your courage and openness. Thank you for sharing”.

If the person has not told you what they expect from you, ask him or her “Now that you’ve told me your experiences, please tell me, how can I help you further? What is it that you need most right now?” Then Wait, Silence, Listen and Neutral Friendly Facial Expression.

Finally, you can go to the solution mode

At the beginning of the conversation, you don’t have to solve things right away. At the end or after the conversation, it is appropriate to take action if necessary. It may be that the person is relieved now that she or he has finally been able to share this and that this is enough for now. She or he may want to go home and process it more or want to make an official complaint. If you are not sure how this works, make sure you find out and get back to them today or tomorrow and tell them. Make a new appointment to discuss this further and see how she or he is doing. You want them to feel that you are taking this and them seriously.

Listening for Leaders – Empathetic leadership

People are able to use their full potential when they feel safe, heard, seen and valued. As a company and as a leader, you want to create these conditions for them. Let them know you are there for them. This is Listening for Leaders. This is compassionate and empathetic leadership.

What do you think now? What are your thoughts?

This is something you have to practise; using silences, repeating the question, not interrupting, not giving any advice, etc. I am here to think with you, to practice, to listen or to be your sounding board. marjoleine@4cunity.com I am a coach and practitioner of listening. I like to help others feel safe, think deeply and express themselves. I am an expert on how to use your breathing to become calm. I am also a business anthropologist who works with people from different cultures. If you like you can download your free document to improve your listening.

The compliments that Americans appreciate

6 April 2021 by Marjoleine van Sinderen, 4c Unity

Americans give compliments

Perhaps more often and at different times than you do. How does their ‘good job!’ feel to you? Is it ok or or is it something that just comes with them? Do you recognize yourself in the following responses: “If it’s genuine, it’s uplifting”. “They make you feel good, but it is not always lasting”. “It feels uncomfortable and it even makes me suspicious sometimes.” “I feel appreciated.” “I don’t believe any of it.” Just some of the responses from people who follow the online training.

Why do Americans give compliments?

What is the function of giving compliments? Are they ‘slimeballs’ or would they give you the compliment because they genuinely mean it? I think it is part of their culture and they mean well. Compliments are given to motivate, appreciate and connect with another person. It can improve social interaction and performance. If the compliment aligns with your values and is substantive, it makes you feel positive. Think about that time you received a personal compliment. How did that make you feel? You have to know the other person to be able to make a compliment that connects well and that will be appreciated. That’s where it probably goes wrong sometimes. A compliment that is not specific enough (“good job!”), gives no lasting satisfaction and can even come across as hollow if it is given often and too quickly. Better is: “I appreciated your ……, because ….

Are you willing and daring to pay a compliment?

It seems beyond dispute to me that Americans have good intentions in doing so. They probably like to encourage you. If giving compliments has such an important function in dealing with Americans and it can have a positive effect on your working relationship, would you consider giving a compliment yourself? Some reactions from trainees who are about to take the step: “It is exciting to give a compliment yourself, because you are afraid it will be kiss ass, but I am going to do it. I saw that it does my American colleague good. Besides, I appreciate what he does.” “It will definitely take some getting used to, but I can see the point of it and it also suits me. It’s also a matter of practicing and doing it and seeing how they react to it.” “If it helps our cooperation, why not?”

(Just wondering)

(Imagine being used to an environment where giving compliments is very social and highly valued. How would it feel to have collaborations where this is virtually absent? Could that make a person feel insecure? Could it make a person feel underappreciated. I am just wondering, because that is not the intention, right?) Ok, but how? How to give a compliment?

Tools for giving compliments

A compliment that focuses on behavior and explains the effect of the behavior is nice to receive. So not on someone’s appearance, but on their perseverance, service orientation to the customer or ‘let’s go for it’ mentality. Give a compliment that you genuinely mean. Pause for a moment to consider what you appreciate in that person and why. Explain how, for example, their positivity affects you. Give a compliment that feels right for you to give, then you come across as sincere. One or two compliments per person, per meeting is sufficient. It would be a shame if your American colleague thinks, “What does he/she want from me?!”

Don’t weaken your compliment

In case you come from a culture where people are a little uncomfortable with compliments or don’t think it’s necessary, don’t try to water down your compliment with words as “pretty”. “Pretty good” might feel like “nice try”. Also, the word “interesting” which to you may mean that someone is interested, may be meant by them as just about the lowest qualification. So not really interesting, it is more given out of politeness.

Compliments are culturally determined

What compliments might Americans appreciate? That is most likely a different compliment than, say, a German, Italian or Finn would appreciate. It depends on the values they value in their culture and value as a person. You’ll learn more about that in the online training. Should you want to know more about how to build a really good cooperation with Americans, I would like to invite you to read more. If you have any questions, I’d love to help you. Besides, I would love to hear your experiences in giving compliments to Americans.

Dear Americans, which compliment worked well for you and why?

I would like to hear from Americans if they ever receive compliments from their European colleagues or does that hardly ever happen? Which compliment was nice to receive? What did it do to you? How do you experience a (possible) lack of compliments? What do you value when it comes to compliments? Love to hear from you.

Online training

With the online training course Inspire & Convince Americans you will improve your relationship and communication style. If you like to receive new articles directly in your inbox, please send me an e-mail: contact@4cunity.com. If you like to read the other articles right now, please be my guest. If you like you can download your free document ‘The 35 most appreciated compliments by Americans’.

“Individual differences are more important in an international cooperation than cultural differences”.

3 March 2021 by Marjoleine van Sinderen, 4c Unity

“Individual differences have more impact on the international working relationship.”, is what I hear from time to time. “We should judge people as individuals and not as cultural ‘products’!” I partly agree.

Personality traits as a starting point?

We are human beings and unique, in that sense we differ individually. At the same time, we have so much in common. Seeing each other as human beings and not just as Italians or Americans gives us the chance to understand each other. To look beyond nationality. Maybe we don’t understand a certain reaction in a certain situation (Why does he raise his voice? How unprofessional!), but we can understand and acknowledge the behavior (sometimes I raise my voice, but not at work). You may want to use personality traits as a starting point and get to know someone from there. Let’s save you time, energy and avoid hiccups.

Understanding differences unbiasedly

If you ignore the fact that there are cultural differences, you will have a hard time understanding the other person without bias. You will look at him/her through your own cultural and colored glasses, which you may not be aware you are wearing. You risk misinterpretation. (She is weird, isn’t she?! Why doesn’t she just…)

Your ancestors still have impact

Your norms and values and the values of Americans are based on a long history. It has its beauty to see that your ancestors had to deal with certain situations, found solutions and that this has an effect to this day. ‘Like the first people who arrived in the US in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to start a new life. There was unclaimed land. It was first come, first served. No time to waste, because others were coming too. If it worked, you did it before anyone else did. We still see the pace of Americans today. Time is money. They have to get there first’. (R.D. Lewis).

Each group of people had its own challenges, stemming from its environment and its circumstances. Dutch ancestors had different problems and needed different solutions. They were concerned with fighting incoming water or sailing to distant places to do international business. In Belgium, people had to deal with changing leadership and power, making most of them more cautious in sharing their opinions. Of course, it is much more complex than this, with many more aspects playing a role. But these aspects still influence the way you were raised, think and act.

Can you see it?

When you are on vacation, do you recognize your fellow citizens? I don’t just mean by their clothing, language or height, but also by their mannerisms, their attitudes. How often is your expectation correct?
Have you worked abroad and have you experienced the differences? Did you notice certain behaviors, habits, norms and values that are typical of the people who live there? Did you also suddenly see what is typical of your culture? Was it suddenly more apparent by being outside of your own culture? Is it perhaps more difficult to see culture and cultural differences when you are in your own environment?

No labels, please!

Let’s not put people in boxes and yes, we are unique in some ways, but we also have clear similarities with our fellow citizens. Perhaps more than you would expect at first glance. We recognize ourselves and others as belonging to a certain group based on certain characteristics. It is crucial not to label them, but to take off your French or Finnish or German glasses and to look at them neutrally, so that you can start to appreciate them or know how to deal with certain aspects with which you have difficulty. This is where my expertise and skills come in handy.

Decode cultural differences and find ways to deal with it

Let’s see each other as human beings and try to decode the cultural differences and respect each other. By understanding Americans, their message, their way of doing things, their values, you will be able to understand what they mean and interpret that properly. You will understand what kind of message or ‘package’ they need to understand you well. To raise the chance that they will interpret it as you intended. Cultural knowledge and skills are essential to meet your objectives, to convince people who think differently. Persuasion is an indispensable business skill to achieve your common goals.

Online training

With the online training course Inspire & Convince Americans you will improve mutual recognition and appreciation. If you like to receive new articles directly in your inbox, please send me an e-mail: contact@4cunity.com. If you like to read the other articles right now, please be my guest.

Coaching: Enriching and deepening your cooperation

5 February 2021 by Marjoleine van Sinderen, 4c Unity

Foresee and anticipate

Can you imagine reducing your blind spot and to become a seer? To see things actually happen, which you never saw before, although it was alway there, right in front of you. Can you imagine being able to foresee what is likely to happen and to anticipate? Imagine yourself being able to clarify it and to solve it, to make your cooperation run easier, more succesful? Can you imagine a working relationship and cooperation that is positive for both of you? Can you imagine formulating your ideas in a way that is positive, appealing, respectful and successful in a way that makes your colleagues and higher management enthusiastic?

You can take coaching in addition to the online training or without taking the online training first.

Your personal case

You can book coaching in addition to the online training. Have you completed the assignments in the workbooks and want to discuss your answers in dept? Then book your coaching. If you have additional questions on your personal cooperation with Americans, then let’s find answers together. I would love to hear about your personal case. The classes are not just for you to understand what is happening, but to be able to anchor knowledge and skills in your daily work life, in your actions. Then you make a real positive change and valuable contribution. With the right knowledge and skills, you will make great progress in your cooperation and work relation.

Convincing higher management

You can book coaching without taking the online training first. These coaching sessions are about convincing higher management regardless their cultural background. It is about improving your confident attitude, your deeply listening and questioning, and a convincing content of your presentation and proposal. We will first discuss your needs. What you learn will depend on your learning needs. Let’s discuss your needs: contact@4cunity.com.

Your investment

Do you need quick troubleshooting or a longer trajectory? It’s all possible. Achieving unity in diversity, with leveraging differences between you and them, is what 4c Unity stands for. With the online training and now also with the coaching, this is within your reach. More information about your investment.

Curious how you can improve?

Please mail me. You will have lifelong access to the online training. Something to fall back on. We do it right, no half measures. If you like to receive new articles directly in your inbox, please send me an e-mail: contact@4cunity.com. If you like to read the other articles right now, please be my guest.

Pearls of remarks

31 January 2021 by Marjoleine van Sinderen, 4c Unity

A few days ago I’ve found a small letter from my youngest son on top of my laptop. It said: ‘Thank you for helping me with spelling, dear mama’ (including some spelling errors). Pfff, do you know that warm feeling in your chest that raises to your neck, swelling up? Well, yes.

A few days later, I again enjoyed a beautiful remark: ‘When I work with someone, I try to understand the other person and try to temporarily adapt to them in order to have a smooth working relationship. I have a great relationship with Americans. Yet, I would like to explore how, with this training, I can supplement my toolbox and see if I can take it to the next level’.

A beautiful mindset; constructive and respectful. I love the willingness, the openness and can’t wait to see the progress. I wish this person profound insights and I look forward to seeing how this mindset and the online training will blend and strengthen the cooperation with Americans. My role is to guide, to ask, to answer, if and when it is needed.

“Can’t the Americans just change, instead of us?”

On the same day, I received a totally different comment from someone else, which was so beautiful in a way. (Yes, I had a great week). “Can’t the Americans just change, instead of us?” I understand why this question is raised. At the same time, I am fully aware of the outrage that this question may provoke in Americans (who weren’t there at that moment.). I get this question from time to time. Not with the intention of deliberately offending, but to genuinely discover: ‘I am who I am. Why should I change? They should adapt’.

I am ok as a person, right?

I am grateful for this comment, because the fact that this person dares to wonder out loud in an environment that is safe for him/her, makes it possible for this person to explore his/her beliefs and point of view. Without wonder and openness, no reactions or reflections are possible. The underlying feeling (or fear) might be: ‘I’m all right, aren’t I? There is nothing wrong with me. I act the way I always do and that works fine. I am just myself’.
Yes, you are ok (!) and nobody is asking you to change. Not in this training. No worries about that. You stay close to yourself. Within your possibilities and time frame, you will explore what you know about American business culture, what your beliefs are about Americans, and their way of dealing with projects, testing, quality, etc. You will discover whether a shift is possible and perhaps necessary in your beliefs.

Explore for your own good

You will expand your current tools with regard to convincing Americans. How do you ask or persuade them to change their decision, direction and production flow, when the situation has changed because of new information? Americans like to stick to their previous opinions and actions. They like to make money quickly, so an adjustment could mean a delay. A delay that could have more consequences for them than for you. What arguments would you use or do you usually use? Are there better arguments? Is it just about arguments or does persuasion involve much more than just arguments? What aspects of persuasion are there and how do you apply them? How to make them work for you? How to convince positively with respect, so that the Americans see the necessity of your proposal and become enthusiastic?

Supplement your toolbox

Would you like to explore how you could supplement your toolbox, then please book your free talk here. I am happy to listen and think along.

With the online training course Inspire & Convince Americans you will improve mutual recognition and appreciation.
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Being a modest lifeline to Americans

15 January 2021 by Marjoleine van Sinderen, 4c Unity

When my sister-in-law, 6 years ago, suddenly died at a young age, I knew immediately that a sad, grey, frightening and uncertain period would begin. We, my brother and his young sons, family, and friends would terribly miss her. It was terrifying.

I remember calling my friend Sanna, right after my brother informed me. I explained her what happened and asked her: “Can you be my lifeline? My connection to life?” She did.

Although I sometimes felt down and my life was at a standstill, her life went on. During walks she would talk about her children, what was happening in her life, etc. Just little things. It may seem trivial, but with that she showed me: ‘I am still here. Life still goes on. Yours too, one day. Even in difficult times, some parts of your life aren’t changed and are still ok’.

Something to hold on to

It gave me something to hold on to. In those moments, I could breathe, forget my worries about my brother for a moment, just live, laugh and quietly listen to her. It was a sparkle among all other meaningful conversations I had with other people. People who knew my brother and sister-in-law and wanted to express their sadness, worries, comforting words and best wishes. Very kind. It happened everywhere I went: in the shop, outside, on the phone, messages. It went on for weeks and months. So heartwarming and at the same time there was sometimes no ‘escape’. And there was Sanna again. She continued to be my positive lifeline. During our walks, she took me on her walk of life, through her conversations about everyday things. It gave me hope, relaxation, a deep connection with her and tears of joy.

A meaningful gesture to Americans

This morning I had to think about the anxiety, worries and disbelieve many Americans experience nowadays, because of covid 19 and what happened in the U.S. Capitol. Some worry more than others. Some openly, some not. I thought about how my friend on January 20th 2015 became a lifeline to me for months. I thought about what she has meant to me and wondered about ‘the lifeline’. How a person could even be someone’s lifeline without even knowing.

Being a lifeline is a beautiful thing. A small but meaningful gesture. I wonder if and how we can be a lifeline for our American colleagues, friends and family. Consciously or unconsciously. By for instance doing a two-to-three minute small talk at the beginning of a meeting, by continuing our weekly conference calls, by sending a message via Whatsapp or LinkedIn. By being a constant factor in their (working) lives, by showing that some parts of their lives have not changed, by listening and helping.

As a result your working relationship improves

Would that already be a lifeline to them, just to do these things? That depends on the situation, the need and the perception of your American colleagues, but it is certainly thoughtful of you. You don’t need to mention the issues, just keep it positive and general. (please read my other blog: Why it is not wise to share your views on what happened at the U.S. Capitol.) Talk about things you have in common. It doesn’t have to be complicated. ‘Keep it light’.

We cannot lift and carry the world on our shoulders and you are probably not a psychologist. It is not your role. Our gesture to Americans should certainly fit in our overloaded schedule, but it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. We can simply ask them: “Are you OK? Did you have a nice weekend? What do you need (to carry out your tasks)?” It seems to me that this is a fairly effortless and kind thing to do. It may even improve your working relationship with them.

“What? A lifeline?! Let’s stick to business”

Some readers might think or say: “What?! This is a confusing article. I have a professional working relationship with Americans. That is what they (and I) prefer and expect. It is not based on emotional bounding or whatsoever. So, a lifeline?! I don’t have time for that. Let’s mind our own business and continue the meeting.” My answer is: continuation in itself can already be a lifeline. “Well, then you wouldn’t have had to write this blog, because we will continue our meetings and project as usual!’ ? Maybe not, but in the meantime, don’t forget to do the two-to-three minute small talk. Americans do small talk differently, but they do. It may have even more value now. Besides, being aware of their current situation and possible feelings, can already help them and you unconsciously.

More insight

Would you like to know more about how Americans do small talk to break the ice with you and how you could do the same? 4c Unity provides with the online training course Inspire & Convince Americans a tested and proved way of firstly opening up Americans to your ideas (with small talk) and secondly convincing them of your technical or managerial ideas. Moreover, it brings insight into the American way of thinking, their lives and business culture to improve mutual recognition and appreciation.
If you like to receive new articles directly in your inbox, please send me an e-mail: contact@4cunity.com. If you like to read the other articles right now, please be my guest.

Why it is not wise to share your views on what happened in the U.S. Capitol with your American colleagues?

7 January 2021 by Marjoleine van Sinderen, 4c Unity

You might have an opinion about what happened in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, yesterday and right now, but please don’t share it with your American colleagues, partners, suppliers, clients, etc. for the sake of your relationship with them. Why? Some suggestions on what to say and what not to say.

Many of us like an intensive debate

In many European countries (not all!), having a clear opinion and sharing it, is very normal. Many of us like a good discussion and even an intensive debate and show how well informed, well-read, intelligent and well-spoken we are. We love to come up with smart arguments, like to challenge each other, like to be intellectual challenged with the assurance we don’t offend each other. It is seen as a verbal brawl. It strengthens and sharpens the intellect. In some European countries (not all!), many subjects can be discussed without being insulting. Please, one moment. Hold your horses. Cherish your working relationship or look forward to a good relationship with Americans.

Politics is a controversial topic for Americans

Subjects such as politics, religion and sex could be very sensitive in the U.S, so steer clear of those. Americans don’t like to talk about controversial topics and like to avoid any statement that can damage a relationship. They like to avoid clear differences in opinions. Showing that you think independently and critically will be uncomfortable for them. They don’t like you to point out weak points. In discussions you may prefer to compare, contrast and to learn from each other, but Americans will feel this as provoking and will be insulted.

Don’t touch their sense of pride

Many Americans are proud of themselves, their family, their company, their country and their democracy. Many of them truly believe that ‘they are the best’. They are proud and positive. Do not touch their sense of pride. Why would you? To teach them a lesson? O, come on! Don’t go there. Don’t fall into that trap.

What can you do when they discuss the current situation?

Just listen. Listen with respect. Show you are interested with sounds like ‘mm’, ‘aha’, ‘yeah’, ‘I see’, ‘I hear you’ and ‘I am sorry’. You might consider to ask a question, but a non-suggestive question! Don’t let your opinion show through.

What if they share their strong opinion about the current situation?
Then you can give yours, right?

I would like to ask you to reconsider this. They can give their opinion, but when an outsider gives an opinion (even the same opinion), it is much more painful. People can be critical of themselves or their political situation, but in the meantime they don’t like it when you agree with them. It is too painful. Too risky. Don’t go into that any further. Keep it general. (As an example: you wouldn’t like your mother or neighbor to agree with you on your bad taste or bad smell. You can say that and share it in confidence, but you don’t want them to agree on that. This is not about a bad smell, it is about politics and the current state and democracy, but it is just as insulting).

What if they ask your opinion or how Europeans think of what happened? What the media writes and says?

Stay neutral and be cautious. You could consider: “Our hearts go out to you guys. We wish you all the best.” Don’t mention: “I agree with George W. Bush. He says: “This is the way in which an election result in a banana republic is disputed, not the way in our democracy.” Dont mention something like: “Incredible what happened, your democracy is at risk.” or “Well, we expected this.” Instead, you might shift the attention from you to them, by asking a neutral question “How are you doing right now?”

How can you help them?

Don’t push them to share their thoughts, give room to ‘escape’ and continue the meeting. Some of them might need time to process what happened. Just be kind, patient and understanding.

If you like to receive new articles directly in your inbox, please send me an e-mail: contact@4cunity.com.
If you like to read the other articles right now, please be my guest.
4c Unity provides the online training Inspire & Convince Americans.