In her third blog post, our international "high mobility pool" member, Irene Coughlin from Canada, describes how she handles being misunderstood in daily communications.
For me, the most challenging aspect of my work is not the new job, changing tasks, new knowledge/expertise that is required of me, changing office, procedures and people, it is the constant changing of communications methods. It takes some time in any office environment to learn how to best communicate with groups, teams and individuals. In our case, with the High Mobility Pool, we must learn to communicate effectively in a new culture and language.
While, most of my projects have taken place in companies and locations where English is the preferred business language, I do have many emails, documents and presentations in German. I was once presented a five year business case in which I had to extract data for my own analysis. This was entirely in German and it took me much longer to complete the task as I translated everything. Other small things such as communication in the coffee room and ad hoc meetings by the printer are often in German. Usually, I am left confused and feeling that I have missed some important information. In these instances, I always ask afterward if the conversation was relevant to my work.
Another example of different communication styles, a more subtle one, is how to ask for participation, information and feedback. Where I am from, Canada, requests are done softly and are filled with softer language such as: Do you mind? Sorry to bother you. Would you be so kind to… or at your convenience can you? Feedback that I am used to is always positive with hints at where improvement can be made. We are rarely told bluntly that something is wrong or told no to a request.
"Now, I have learnt how to be more assertive with my requests. I now appreciate and expect quick, to the point feedback so that I can move on and complete a task efficiently."
I do not take things personally when I am given negative feedback and I make every effort to adjust my communication style depending on the audience. Lastly, I have enrolled in German. Six hours per week for 16 weeks and this will continue when I move to my next project locations.