Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What in the world did that mean?

Written by: on September 4, 2019

Generally, in the Pacific Northwest where I lived, people walk downtown or in a neighborhood greeting each other, at least with a glance. Usually, that is an entirely different type of experience than living in an urban Midwest or on the east coast populated environment. These different parts of the United States of America (USA) can create a level of shock as if one would saw Santa in a raincoat! It can be a real shocker!

I have not been to a European country. So, attending to and maintaining a respectful curiosity attitude as a guest will be my aim. “Though people may have a gruff exterior, you can usually melt it very quickly by approaching in a courteous, friendly, and sincere manner.”[1] If my experiences lend me to see things one way, I will need to respect my context and be a learner. As a visitor, if I do happen to encounter new behaviors as if Santa was in a raincoat, I will need to seek to understand versus merely trying to be understood. My intercultural experiences lend me to believe that everyone wants to be respected and loved.

“Fundamentally, it’s the realization that I am different from them rather than the other way around.”[2] One will experience this when living in the suburbs and ministering in the hood or visiting another country. I think the author is seeking to help his reader understand that when we visit the culture of someone else that we are guests.

I believe everyone would probably agree, that maintaining a learner position; however, we communicate, particularly in intra-continental, cross-cultural, or when visiting another country. So, the big question is, what type of communication structure does one need to have to enhance the effectiveness of the communication process, or, increase the successful flow of accurate information. Exchanging information and transmission of communication will be more effective if we do some study of the culture we are to visit. Also, before we try to determine useful communication strategies, we need to assess our own communication needs and capacities. For example, some online interactions are written disrespectfully, regardless if it is an international experience. Having a forgiving attitude will make a way to a better relationship. Maybe questioning our purpose to communicate would help us become more respectful communicators.

Possible questions to consider asking oneself:

  1. Why am I communicating? What is the purpose?
  2. Who will receive my message? What do I know about these people?
  3. Where will they be when they get this message? When?
  4. What do I want to say? What do they need to know?
  5. How shall I communicate? Write, phone, personally?

To avoid miscommunications, it is advisable to have the other person repeat the message back. Repeating back what they said or heard will help the sender confirm that we listened to their position. Proverb 18:17, “We are to be careful to hear a matter before we answer.” Active listening is the practice of repeating to the person what they have said or heard. This may be the tool for solving the problem others might feel by another. Prov. 18:13, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” James 1:19, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak.” Orin wrote, “About the only thing that gets challenged nowadays is your patience.”[3]

Effective communication and understanding depend on us being learners and listeners. When one seems to voice a complaint about our misunderstanding because we are from another country, we need to respect the culture by asking for clarification. This tactic will allow the other party to know that what they said was valuable and we are seeking to hear them correctly. Being an investigator instead of a judge and jury will help us make sure we fully understand the other. I mean, “Was that Santa in a raincoat I experienced, or did I have an inappropriate attitude as a guest?” I have heard it said that we ought to seek to be understood versus trying to only be understood.

[1] Orin Hargraves, CultureShock! London, Marshall Cavendish Corporation, (Location 242) Kindle Edition.

[2] Terry Tan, CultureShock! Great Britain, Marshall Cavendish Corporation, (Locations 185-186), Kindle Edition.

[3] Orin Hargraves, CultureShock! London, Marshall Cavendish Corporation, (Locations 3578-3579), Kindle Edition.

About the Author

Steve Wingate

7 responses to “What in the world did that mean?”

  1. Joe Castillo says:

    Steve, I appreciate your post I wish I can write so flowing like you. I appreciate the observation you are making in regards to been courteous and respectful. We suffer from uncourteous behavior in the Westcoast. Modesty and appropriate behaviors are not the norms in the Cali culture. Took me a while to get used to it when I went to live in Africa. Even some Latins in the US which culture background is very courteous are losing those respectful values.

    “So, attending to and maintaining a respectful curiosity attitude as a guest will be my aim”.

    Excellent attitude, but it’s ok to ask questions inform that you want to learn about their culture and that’s why you ask.

  2. John McLarty says:

    When I am a guest in someone else’s home, I try to be very careful to understand what my host would find acceptable and not acceptable. I try not to assume that what would be permitted in my own home would be automatically okay in someone else’s. Do they wear shoes in the house or should I take mine off at the door? Would they prefer to serve me a snack or beverage or are they comfortable with me raiding the pantry and the refrigerator? Many of these issues are resolved with familiarity, but initially, we can make the most progress when we take our cues from our host.

    Your post is a great reminder of the importance of courtesy and observation and being mindful of myself and my place when I am a guest in someone else’s community or country. People are often very gracious and welcoming, but I believe we build stronger relationships when we meet people on their terms, rather than impose our own assumptions and/or style upon them.

    “Being an investigator instead of a judge and jury will help us make sure we fully understand the other.” Anywhere we are, and with all types of people we encounter, the more we seek to understand each other before we presume to know them, the richer and more authentic our encounters will be.

    Thanks for your post, Steve. I look forward to our time in England.

  3. Shawn Cramer says:

    Nice emphasis on communication. I’m most of the way through Meyer’s “Culture Map” and that text will add a lot here. I’ve recently moved form a local role to more of a global facing role, and I’m trying to put my assumptions and prefered working and communicating styles under scrutiny. Thanks for sharpening that process for me.

  4. Chris Pollock says:

    Focus on learning. What a great attitude to have! Lots to learn from one another.

    As I sit here at a coffee shop after an absolutely spectacular day at work (spectacular in the highs and the lows of it) a First Nations man rode by the window of the coffee shop on his bike blaring beautiful-traditional First Nations singing on his mini speaker. There are many people spread through the quad area outside this coffee shop in a kind of outdoor mall space, some having dinner at restaurants, other enjoying a coffee at other coffee shops, many still working and studying after al already long day I’m sure.

    Is he enjoying his music? Is there more to this? There is.

    The attentive listening that you mentioned gripped me in this moment. I’m left wondering, deepening in care; I find it can hurt to go there sometimes. To go deeper.

    The man on the bike doesn’t have to be here to unpack anything of this (sure would be sweet if he could be though). Spirit of God can be the Big help/communication through some of the wonder and confusion; God can open our hearts further to one another with just a little beckoning.

  5. Darcy Hansen says:

    Steve, I so appreciate your thoughtful response to our texts. Your 5 questions of consideration will be most helpful as we enter into many new environments over the next few years. Your words reminded me of something a pastor of mine use to say: “Its better to be interested than interesting.” I look forward to exploring the questions and listening for the responses with you in London.

  6. Greg Reich says:

    Steve I truly enjoyed your insightful questions. I as well have never been to a European Country but have traveled to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.I look forward to the journey with you Being in the mode of a learner is great advice, as well as, being sensitive to our communication style is very valuable. As a type A personality, a business owner and adjunct professor it is easy to slip into the lets get things done and make things happen mind set. Though I am a life long learner it is great to be reminded that this trips primary focus is as a student.

  7. Dylan Branson says:

    “Fundamentally, it’s the realization that I am different from them rather than the other way around.” This quote that you pulled out is key to understanding being a guest in another culture. We try to hold people to our own standards instead of allowing ourselves to fall into their standards. It isn’t a bad thing to note the differences, but why are we noting them? If we ask ourselves, “Why is this such a big deal to me?” then we can begin to come to a sort of reconciliation with them instead of dwelling obsessively on it.

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