I started writing this post several weeks ago… but it never was completed. I wanted to be witty and creative in expanding on the original article. Now I’ve realized that isn’t going to happen, so I might as well stop waiting on something creative and witty to come to me for a Swazi version of the chart.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with a lecturer (who also happens to be my wife) who offered a few suggestions of how she might communicate to one of her students about the poor quality of the paper she was grading. The main desire being communicating clearly the work is sub-par and needs to be improved without being too harsh or mean.
We softened up some messages about “raising your level of work to college standards” and “this sentence needs improvement” in order to meet our expectations.
Then I left the room and this link jumped out at me in my Twitter feed:
So, of course I clicked to read it. Unfortunately, no African cultures are represented in the article, but it focuses mainly on European differences. But, the point still remains. We give and take feedback in very, very different ways. Many of these ways are influenced heavily by our culture.
Here’s a chart summarizing the article.
Obviously this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but today’s mission (one of them) is to find out the African translation of some of these phrases and start improving the way I give feedback as a lecturer, leader, and manager.
What did I learn that day — and in the conversations and explorations with my African colleagues and students since? The article’s chart is very relevant to my context here: I identify with the “British” columns while my African friends identify with the “Dutch” columns. Needless to say, that means frequent miscommunication and difficulties.
The real challenge, though, is to discover what misinterpretations I’m making when listening to my African friends. Knowing how they might be misinterpreting my comments — and working to be more clear — is helpful. But I also need to know how to better interpret their comments.
Perhaps another chart will appear soon for the reverse.