I come from a direct culture. How do I communicate so that people understand what I am trying to tell them?
I received this question via e-mail.
The cold dish:
Peter: I come from a very “direct” culture and am often seen as rude while communicating with others. Once, someone also reported me to HR. How would you solve this?
You hit the spot. I had the same experience since I come from the Balkans, and how we express ourselves can sometimes qualify as “ inappropriate for business.”
This is what I did; it helped me communicate well. Also, the feedback I received confirmed that I am moving in the right direction.
Ingredient 1: Give more context.
Before saying to someone that they suck or the process in B.S., take a step back and think about what you are trying to achieve. You don't want to offend your business peers, but helping them see something they don't, could make your working lives much more manageable.
Pause and then try to give context first. What are you trying to do, and why do you think it's not working?
Instead of this:
WTF?!? Your logs are broken, and because of that, we are failing the deployment. Fix your *** now.
Try something like this:
Hey Jamie, I am trying to make the release process faster, and I saw that your application logs are strangely formatted. Please help me understand why that is so I don't bother you in the future.
Ingredient 2: Be careful
It takes some time to rephrase your good intentions in something that would be constructive and understood correctly by others.
Some people will “meet you in the middle” and adapt to your style while you are adjusting to theirs.
Some people would not. Choose your fight wisely. If you talk with some high-level stakeholders, you might need to adapt to their style instead of waiting for them to do some steps.
Here is an excellent article on the topic.