Have you ever tried to do something nice for someone, only to be disappointed in how they received it? Perhaps you went out of your way to express your gratitude or demonstrate that you care about and value them, only to receive a lukewarm response, as if it didn’t quite hit the spot for them. I think it’s safe to say that we have all experienced this every now and then. While this can definitely be discouraging when it happens in our personal lives, even the fear of such a response keeps us from taking our work relationships to that next level, instead keeping many of us at the level of “transactionships” alone. Well the good news is that there are ways to take your communication and relationships to that next level, both in your personal life and at work, and that’s what I want to talk about in this post.
I have had my share of cross-cultural experiences. I grew up in Iran, moved to the U.S. on my own when I was 16, and have lived and worked in a few places in the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia since then, and I have been married to a person of a different race and ethnicity than my own for over 35 years. If there is one thing I have learned during my extensive travels, it is that deep down, we are all the same. As the saying goes, “What’s most personal is most general.” There are tons of similarities between us, regardless of our nationality, religion, race, political persuasion, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, etc. There are also tons of superficial differences between us that really do matter and should not be ignored. The fact is, however, that all these differences between us are only meaningful precisely because they are situated within the context of an underlying unity that we all share. My experience is that understanding and accepting our sameness is the pre-requisite for sustainably and genuinely valuing and celebrating—not just tolerating—our differences.