It is easy to get frustrated in cross-cultural situations and sometimes the very words that people use can set us off.

I remember reading an email from one of my old Japanese colleagues who seemed to be over-using the company name.  “Our Company X needs to..”  “Our Company X sees it this way…”   “Because it is the position of Company X that we…”

As I was reading, my mind started to mutter: “Can’t this guy grow up and say what HE thinks? …Everybody in the WHOLE company thinks this way?  Nobody told me.  Does he speak for ALL of us??”

I was getting hung up on his use of words and missing the meaning in the message.

So I decided to cut him some slack and just make the jump (and it seemed like a big jump at the time) that he is just a person trying to do his best.  Looking back, what I gave him was a little UPR…unconditional positive regard.

When I started again in that light, I was able to remember some obvious cultural points.

Being Japanese, he might tend to downplay his own individual thoughts and phrase them a “company” thoughts.

Being Japanese, he is fairly risk averse and less likely to go out on a limb and state his own opinion clearly.

In the end, I was able to see some of his valid points that I had previously missed.  What I learned was that starting with unconditional positive regard for people sets up possibilities and helps to get rid of the noise that comes with judgement.

Getting the upper hand in cross-cultural situations is tough. Next time try a little UPR.