Category Archives: Different mindset

Soak Up Life… Are They Serious?

images.jpg I saw this commercial for I don’t know what (how sticky was that?) a few weeks back in which a kid is shaking a bottle of soda that abruptly explodes in the whole kitchen flooor, and the mother, who supposedly reprimands the kid, actually joins him in making a bigger mess. Oh… I remember the tag line was “Soak Up Life”. Paper towel perhaps?

I’ve seen many commercials like this one before and I have always thought the same thing: how can the mothers allow their kids to mess up the house like that, and on top of that, join them? Don’t they know how to parent and teach the kids not to dirty the house? (They’re certainly not teaching them anything if they join them.) Are they really such submissive maids? Well, I ponder a lot, especially on such cultural differences like that.

Two things that I don’t see often in Latin America are kids messing up the house like that as if it’s ok (because it really isn’t), and mothers who act like maids.

Call me extremist, I won’t tolerate kids messing up the house like that for me to clean up later! And I do feel sorry for the mothers who let themselves be like that…

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Don’t take it personally

I don’t know if it’s just me and the way I was raised (I tend to believe that most people I know from Brazil are like that too), but I used to to take personally many things people told me. This is certainly a bad thing to do…

Here in the US, people are not like that. There’s a clear invisible line separating their personal person from the professional person, and no comments made either way is rarely taken personally. A comment about your professional skills is just that, a comment about your professional skills. It was almost unbelievable how people could do that. In my mind, if you talked about me, it was almost a personal attack, regardless of what it was really (how crazy was that?).

Adjusting to that was hell as you might imagine… I was so hung up on the “personal attack” that it was really difficult for me to start thinking differently. Eventuallly I did. Adapting to this mindset has been one invaluable lesson I’ve learned from living here. It has opened my mind to many opportunities I could have lost (and maybe did) because of my silly thinking.

That’s How We Are…

Today I had an interesting conversation with my American colleague about sales techniques, but mainly body language involved in the sales process. He even remembered and was describing the body language of Jaime, a Hispanic male we met Saturday at a party. Relating back to our sales techniques/body language conversation, my colleague was very presice in describing how (differently) Jaime behaved with the male and female party attendees.

The body language “movement”, if you will, Jaime enacted while being introduced to the women at the party was the following:

  • He extended his right hand to shake and placed his left hand on the women’s side of the arm just above the elbow

This according to my colleague is a “technique” that tells the person who you just met that you’re friendly and not intimidating.

On the other hand, when Jaime was being introduced to the men at the party, he did the following:

  • He extended his right arm and shaked the other men’s hand very firmly and in an assertive manner

This according to my colleague is also a “technique” that tells the person who you just met that you’re not to be fulled around with… especially since this is a man-to-man scenario, where men want to assert themselves and mark their territory right from the get go.

The conversation was really interesting, but I couldn’t agree that Jaime, an educator (not a businessman), could have used sophisticated sales techniques to lure the women at the party. So I started thinking about it… even though my colleague analyzed that expose as being a display of good sales techniques, I concluded that that was just how Jaime was. No doubt, that these are sales techniques, I just don’t believe Jaime was doing them.

As I mentioned earlier, Jaime is a Hispanic male from Guadalaraja, Mexico. Even though he has lived in the US for many years, he, deep down, like me, is still a Latin. Men in Latin America are supposed to be – and they like to be – charming and delicate with women… a real gentleman; and they’re also supposed to be manly with other men… it’s a macho thing! No matter the socio-economic status, men in Latin America are generally very gracious with women.

This whole episode just goes to show how people tend to impose their value system, thoughts and way of life on other people. My colleague analyzed the whole episode as being a good display of sales techniques, which is what he does all the time, so he assumed that other men would do the same. He, however, failed to take into consideration the cultural background behind the scenes that ultimately dictated how Jaime behaved, AND how he looked at Jaime – I bet that not even an European man would have concluded what my colleague concluded because Americans tend to make a science of just about anything, any subject, and deal with other people in a very “black or white” way with (somewhat) total disregard for cultural differences.

In Latin America, that’s just how we are… social pressure teaches us, from our first years of life, how to behave with (or impress) others in a very natural way… our efforts are not at all concious. Sales techniques are, on the other hand, very concious and one must prepare to execute them correctly.

So, was Jaime pulling off sales techniques at the party? I don’t think so for all the reasons I cited. But what makes this story interesting is that misinterpretation (and miscommunication) like that happens all the time and many go undetected… and many more happen even with people who share the same background! Case in point, marriage. Do I need to say more?