Police, secret service agents & FBI are everywhere.

Photo Credit: dmott9 Flickr via Compfight cc

Police, secret service agents & FBI are everywhere. And those are only the ones I can see. I wonder how many snipers are stationed out of sight. Roads are blocked with huge cement bomb blast protectors. Traffic is cordoned off & diverted, while the streets are a colourful riot of every skin shade you can imagine, surpassed only by the array of wildly colourful & diverse garb that folks are wearing.


The last 3 weeks I’ve written about:


So it seems fitting that I close this mini-series while I’m in New York City, ½ a block from the United Nations General Assembly.


I’m not sure which side of the equation I fall on

I’m not sure which side of the equation I fall on – hopeful that world leaders can gather for dialogue & debate or despair that for such to happen, such an armed presence is required.


But then I think about the following:


Pessimistic or optimistic?

“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data.

“But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.

“What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”

—Paul Hawken


And …

Our different faces

We all have “many different faces, and some are ugly and self-absorbed/narcissistic.  But each moment is another opportunity to love again, to ‘become’ more.  And as the times seem to grow increasingly fractious and fragile, I’m also seeing people dive into danger without a second thought to help someone else. I see great sorrow, loss and pain and I’m seeing so much light in the ruins of the world it takes my breath away.  Light like I’ve never seen before.  And as the struggle continues to keep going, I’m so grateful to witness the extraordinary and the hope that rises, that won’t be denied.” – An edited quote from a reader named Sam.


And ….

Medical emergency in the sky

I think about being jolted awake on the flight here to New York by passengers yelling. A young man was having a grand mal seizure. I rushed towards him & together with a wonderful Egyptian surgeon, we managed to stabilize him & keep him safe. As I yelled for help (for someone to get his id so we knew what language he spoke & to determine if he was carrying any health records, which he was) people were only too willing help. Many coloured hands helped to hold him steady as we all knelt together in cramped quarters so he didn’t hurt himself as he flailed about. I watched male airline staff quietly caress him & kiss him on his head after he was stable. The doctor & I stayed with him until we landed & the paramedics boarded & took over.


And ….


I revise my wonderings.

I am grateful that world leaders can gather together to work towards peace & justice for all.

Despite our wobbly world, it is a beautiful place, as are the people in it.

Including you dear reader. Including you.

So do take up the reigns of reflection & match them with action so goodness outweighs evil, inclusion becomes the norm & there is peace, justice & equity for all.



P.S. Take action:


  • How many times have you stood by when witnessing something that conflicted with your values because you didn’t know what to say, didn’t want to say the wrong thing, were embarrassed etc.?


  • Or how many times were you the victim of racism, sexism, gender based violence etc. & weren’t able to stand up or advocate yourself because it was too risky, or you didn’t know what to say?


  • Review my suggestions for how to reflect & then take action. Because the world needs you.



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Hang out in your head & reflect, then get up off the couch & take action. Rinse. Repeat.


There’s a time to speak & a time to listen.

There’s a time to reflect & a time to act


Last week was for reflection. Today’s for action.


Based on a traumatic incident I had while in the ICU, in the first of this 3 series post I talked about the power of praxis. Praxis is cycling back & forth between action & reflection. I use it when designing my workshops, but it’s also a great tool for wrapping your head around the many social changes our world needs.


Our world needs you to reflect on the batcrap craziness that is becoming normal.


And our world needs you take action on that batcrap craziness.


Yep you.


Last week I gave you some tools for reflection. On today’s menu is stepping up to bat & taking action.


Action aimed at effecting social change is:


  • Being an ally ~ be a voice & lend support to issues & causes where you hold more power & privilege. Make sure though that you have permission to intervene & refrain from giving advice. Check out this excellent interview with Parker Palmer about The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice. (Thanks to reader Jean for sending me this fab resource.)


  • Seeking allies when you need them because no one can shoulder the burdens of social change alone.


  • Speaking up, when you see something wrong, even when your gut is in a knot & your throat is thick with fear. Even when your words aren’t cooperating or coming easily …. say … something. Because ‘our lives begin and end the day we become silent about the things that matter.’ –Martin Luther King paraphrased.



Need some more specific ways to take action?


  • No one is born sexist or racist. This stuff is learned. Start early. When my kids were little I made a point of reading them social change books. Here’s a partial list. (As my ‘babies’ are now 15 & 20 these books are now classics. I’d love to hear updates if you have some.)


  • Not sure what to say when you witness a racist incident? Because silence is bad as approval Films for Action recommends these steps: stand beside & assist the victim (to regain their composure, get them water etc.), film & report the incident, & tackle the culture of racism.




  • If you have a life partner, consider what you call them. I’ve referred to my husband as my partner for years. It’s a small way I can be an ally in the fight against homophobia. It works. After an all day workshop I had one older woman come up to me & say ‘Dear, are you gay? We’ve been wondering all day.’ It was a fabulous opportunity to do some awareness raising.


  • Having a hard time wrapping your head around all the hullaballoo around mental health, another area that’s rife with judgement? Read Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety. It’s a graphic read & front row seat to what it’s like to suffer from a significant mental health issue.


  • Is religious tolerance & acceptance your thing? Consider getting this bumper sticker that takes pride of place on my car. For a bunch of complicated reasons, my kids have gone to an evangelical Christian school here in Kenya. We are neither evangelical nor Christian. And while the school has been fabulous in many ways, religious intolerance has reared its head. My bumper sticker is a simple way to get folks thinking. And it hasn’t been torn off like one I had on my car decades ago, which was ‘women are natural born leaders, you’re following one now.’


There’s so much batcrap craziness in the world right now, simply pick an issue that calls your curiousity & get going.


Remember our recipe: action + reflection = praxis & social change. Hang out in your head & reflect, then get up off the couch & take action. Rinse. Repeat.


And when you need some inspiration? Remember this excerpt from Good Bones, Maggie Smith


Any decent realtor,

walking you through a real shithole, chirps on

about good bones: This place could be beautiful,

right? You could make this place beautiful.


This place, our world, needs you, so get going to restore, uncover & create beauty.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where I close the 3 part series with some final thoughts.

And do let me know by leaving a comment below:

  • which of the above you tried &/or
  • what issue you’re most called to act on & how

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There’s a time to tell your own story & a time to hear others

There’s a time to speak & a time to listen,

There’s a time to tell your own story & a time to hear others,

There’s a time to take a break because you can & a time to take a break because you have to,

There’s a time to reflect & a time to act.


Today’s a day to reflect.


Based on an incident with a nurse while I was in ICU, last week I asked you to gird your loins as we dive in together to tackle issues like racism & sexism.  I described 4 ways to frame your thoughts while doing so. And I explained the concept of praxis- constantly cycling back & forth between action & reflection as a way to move through tough issues.


Today let’s dive into the reflection part of praxis (next week we’ll focus on action).


Start by thinking about your power & privilege – how much of it do you or don’t you have & what does that mean?


Power & privilege is reflected in things like:


  • Whether you are likely to be followed by security when shopping simply because of the colour of your skin (racial privilege)
  • The ease or difficulty in getting a loan (socio-economic privilege)
  • If you can read food labels & other daily items without problems (literacy privilege)
  • If you’ve ever been a victim of mansplaining  (gender privilege)
  • Whether you’ve experienced mental health issues due to gender based violence (mental health privilege)
  • If you can marry the partner of your choice &/or show public displays of affection without fear of retribution, judgment or violence (sexual orientation privilege)


I’m a mzungu (white person) living in Kenya. I have waaaaaay more (unearned) privilege than the average Kenyan citizen. For example I drive a car with diplomatic plates, I have multiple degrees & have house help. And on the other side of power & privilege I’ve been a victim of gender based violence so extreme it resulted in a severe case of PTSD years ago.


Each person’s access to power & privilege will be mixed & unique.


I encourage you to reflect on your own mix. Here are some resources to do just that:



Hard stuff. And if you need some motivation in terms of getting out of a box (boxed in thinking), here’s a funny resource to help you do just that (& yup, being able to take a break is a sign of privilege).


Til next week dear one, where I’ll write about ways to take action after all that reflecting.


Your turn:

  • check out the links above & let me know what you think.  I’ll be waiting & reflecting.

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I was okay until I wasn’t. Reflections from the intensive care unit.

My home for a week

I was okay until I wasn’t. As I was rushed to emergency I stared at the ambulance ceiling, scared & confused. I thought I’d had the flu yet a week in intensive care later, I was treated for kidney & blood infections. My blood had become poisoned.


Fast forward. I’ve composed this post to you a million times in my head while in my hospital bed (that’s me above). Now that I’m out & mostly recovered I can finally settle in to write it.


I have a phobia of needles. I’ve been known to pass out when having one. That’s why when the male nurse startled me awake in the middle of the night saying he had to give me one, I was on full alert. I didn’t understand why & told him no 3 times.


He ignored me & lifted up my hospital gown to give me the injection in my stomach. On his way out he chuckled & said ‘next time I’ll have to sneak up on you.’


I spent the rest of the night humiliated & terrified. I didn’t press the call button for fear he’d answer, rather I’d wait until I could see another nurse walking by & I’d ask her for help.


We’ve lost our way in the world.

This is a small example. Zoom out & sexism, gender based violence, racism, ageism, homophobia, discrimination against people with disabilities, poverty & environmental issues are all rampant. At times it seems like we’re headed nowhere good. The distance between us growing. Violence is often the answer, no matter the question.


And yet …


Let’s find a new path

We can make choices. We have agency. Beauty & kindness exist in parallel to the violence & discrimination. It’s up to us to make a difference & increase the former while addressing the latter.


As a professional trainer, I create workshops using praxis, which simply means continuously alternating between reflection & action. Praxis can also be a path to effective social change.


Reflection (thinking, theory) + Action (practice, application) = Praxis


One without the other (action & reflection) is ineffective & inefficient.


Reflection without action is unapplied learning. Learning doesn’t leave the room.


Action without reflection is impulsive, reactionary & risky. It’s a flurry of go go go, do do do without any thought.


This is the first of 3 posts. Next week is a post on reflection; some tips on how to get your mind around issues like sexism, racism & homophobia. The third one will be how to take action.


Tidbits to ponder when tackling tough issues

In the meantime here are some tidbits to ponder when thinking about stirring, controversial topics. Think of them as ways to frame your thoughts. Because it’s tough & tender to delve into:


  • Know that we’re all in this together, even though the dividing lines can seem impenetrable.

Sunlight looks a little different on this wall
than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still one light. ~ Rumi





In short the world can suck. It’s easy to get discouraged &/or overwhelmed.

But I have a better plan. Wrap your head around the tidbits above (we’re all in this together, watch your judgment, don’t diminish, life people up & figure out the difference between haters & constructive criticizers) & gird your loins for next week when I share some tips on how to reflect on this world gone mad in order to tackle tough issues like racism, sexism etc.


Now please excuse me as I edit the letter I’m writing to the hospital about my incident with the nurse.


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Identity – yours, mine, ours & his … 6 ways


Have you ever walked into a meeting feeling super confident, competent, on top of the world, and ready and raring to get down to business?

And have you ever walked into a meeting feeling like you don’t belong, like you don’t know what you’re doing, like you’re an imposter and someone’s going to find out any second and kick you out?

Likely you’ve done both. Yet how can that be?

Perceptions, of our self and others, go to the heart of our identity.

Not only can how we see ourselves radically change but also, how other people see us can change as well.  (And sometimes the two never shall meet – our perception of our self and someone else’s perception of us.)

And identity is a funny thing, it’s fluid and highly dependent on context – who’s doing the ‘identifying.’

When I’m doing training workshops about culture I often stand at the front of the room and ask people ‘what do you see when you looking at me?’

The results have been astonishing everything from a hockey fan to someone who loves to iron clothes. I am emphatically neither of those things (despite being a proud Canadian). My idea of ironing is wetting down a piece of clothing, smoothing it out with my hands  and hanging it up to dry in the shower.


Identity – yours, mine, ours

That’s why this social experiment caught my eye. Six photographers, one subject, six different perspectives.

The catch was that each photographer was told something vastly different about the person they were photographing, even though the subject was the same for each photographer.

Here was their brief about who they were photographing:

  • Self-made millionaire
  • Saved someone’s life
  • Ex inmate
  • Commercial fisherman
  • Psychic
  • Former alcoholic

Take a few minutes and watch the video above that recounts the experience. And look at the resulting photos below.

‘A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera then by what’s in front of it’ …

…says Canon who created the experiment.

No one sees you like you. Yet who’s the author of that perspective? Here are some things about your identity that may shift according to how you’re feeling, where you are, who you’re with and a multitude of other things:

  • How smart do you feel?
  • How do you feel about your body?
  • How do you feel about your role as _______ (fill in the blank eg parent, partner, worker, boss, sister, brother, community volunteer)?
  • Do you have lots in common with the other people in the room or not?


So what does it all mean?

Remembering that questions of identity and perspective are fluid and changeable helps.  And realizing that especially when you’re feeling frumpy, grumpy and like an imposter, your identity can be a matter of the mind. When the (negative) self-talk is all in your head, be deliberate and shoo away that uninvited guest.










Life Saver





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Give me constraints, give me creativity

Photo Credit: jeschnotes Flickr via Compfight cc


If someone challenged you to write a book using only 50 words, could you do it? How creative do you think you could be?  That’s just what Theodore Geisel did when his editor bet him that he couldn’t write a children’s book using just 50 words.

Can you guess which book was the result? None other than the epic ‘Green eggs and ham,’ authored by Theodore who’s better known as Dr. Seuss.

Catrinel Haught Tromp, a psychologist, has dubbed this the ‘Green eggs and ham’ hypothesis of  creativity. The idea is that being faced with boundaries or limits can result in more creative thinking not less.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about limits due to my recent elbow surgery. I’ve not been able to type or write for about three months now. While it certainly has been frustrating & has caused me to want to tear my hair out at times, it’s also been strangely illuminating.

Here are some things that I’ve discovered based on my recent constraints:

  1. Technology: I’m using tech in all new ways. Auto-dictation is a wonderful thing. In fact I’m dictating this post right now using an app called Dragon Dictation (while the desktop version is pricey, the app is free). I’d seen the little microphone at the bottom of my screen on my smartphone (another built-in type of automatic dictation) but I never knew how easy it could be to use it. I have my constraint to thank for that.

2. Sharing the love: I’ve taught so many people  how to use auto-dictation. It’s been fun to watch their eyebrows shoot up & hear their exclamations of glee at the ease & efficiency of it all.

3. Going beyond the obvious: I was using Siri quite a bit (the built in iPhone ‘intelligent assistant’) but my constraints of not being able to write has pushed me to find new ways to use her. Who knew that Siri could add? Now doing healthcare receipts each month is a snap when I just ask her to add up all the receipt totals. No more fussing with a calculator.


All in all I’m not at the point where I’m glad that I had to have surgery, but I am grateful for the new opportunities that my physical constraints brought about a la the Green eggs and ham’ hypothesis of  creativity.


How can you use constraints to amp up your creativity?

Specifically how can you:

1. Use technology to help you learn, get organized &/or communicate?

2. How can you share the love & spread your learning?

3. When you’re faced with a challenge, how can you go beyond the obvious solution & break out some creative thinking?


Let me know, I’d love to hear. I’m not going anywhere; while I’m waiting for my husband to help me put on some deodorant (which I’ve discovered definitely requires 2 hands), I’m getting a laugh or two from the mistakes that the  dictation sometimes makes. Who is speaking about Justin Bieber? Definitely not me, though that’s what the dictation software transcribed recently.


PS thanks so much to all you readers who have sent me kind notes with get well wishes. I appreciate each & everyone. You rock!


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Simon says … ssssh, be the last to speak


I saw Simon Sinek, author of ‘Start with why,’ speak at an event in New York City some time ago and found his messages incisive & compelling.

Here’s one of his latest.  Check out the 1 1/2  minute video below & my notes from his video also below.

‘Here’s the problem & here’s what I think, I’m interested your opinion, let’s go around the room’ is too late.

Why? Because it’s leading &  influences what people say next.

Same with if you agree with somebody don’t nod yes & if you disagree with somebody don’t nod no.

Why? Again because it’s leading &  influences what people say next.

Instead what should you do?

Learn to be the last to speak.

The skill to hold your opinion to yourself does two things:

1. It gives everybody else the feeling they’ve been heard, they’ve contributed.

2. You get the benefit of hearing what everyone else has to think before you render your opinion.

So sit back, listen & ask  questions so you can understand from where they’re speaking.

Important caveat

Can you identify the big hairy assumption that Simon is making?

He assumes that you’re in a position of leadership & people will not only listen to you but will wait for you to speak.

At any rate it’s still great advice.

So go for it! Ssssssh.  Be the last to speak.



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Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know; Do You?

Photo Credit: Rita Eberle-Wessner Flickr via Compfight cc


I’m on week 12 or so of not being able to write or type due to a tenacious case of tennis elbow. My temporary disability has given me a lot of time to reflect. On a good day the fear, fatigue & frustration gives way to empathy, insight &  perspective.  (On a bad day I eat way too many sweets.)


In two days I’ll get surgery on  my elbow & be on the other side of recovery.  In the meantime I’m thinking about one of my favourite poems,  Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know by Pamela Redmond Satran (not Maya Angelou who it’s commonly misquoted to).


It’s a fabulous take on gratituderesilience & for those times when up seems down & down seems up.  Take a read & think about the ones that particularly strike a chord for you. My favourites are italicized.


A woman should have

enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own even if she never wants to or needs to…


something perfect to wear if the employer or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour…


a youth she’s content to leave behind…


a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to retelling it in her old age…


a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra…


one friend who always makes her laugh…and one who lets her cry…


a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…


eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored…


a feeling of control over her destiny…

A woman should know

how to fall in love without losing herself…


how to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship…


when to try harder…and when to walk away…


that she can’t change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents…


that her childhood may not have been perfect…but it’s over…


what she would and wouldn’t do for love or more…


how to live alone…even if she doesn’t like it…


whom she can trust, whom she can’t, and why she shouldn’t take it personally…


where to go…be it to her best friend’s kitchen table…
or a charming inn in the woods…when her soul needs soothing…


what she can and can’t accomplish in a day…
a month…
and a year…


Your turn

Over to you dear reader. See you on the other side of surgery.

  • which one(s) resonated most for you?


  • are there any you’d add?


  • leave a comment below & let me know



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In honour of sunglasses day, gratitude via the Life Lenses™


I’d originally planned to write this post in honour of national sunglasses day#NationalSunglassesDay because:

  • of my lifelong interest & passion in lenses, specifically the frames with which we see the world
  • of gratitude for the creativity, inspiration & problem solving opportunities the different frames or perspectives bring
  • it’s a fun, whimsical thing to celebrate

And then I got a bad case of tennis elbow & tendonitis with now weeks of not being able to type or write.

And then I realized how much you need your right arm to do pretty much anything if you’re right-handed.

And then I started to dive into assisted technologies to help me continue my work.

Now I’m grateful that surgery is on the horizon to help fix the problem, but in the meantime I’m thinking of you dear reader.

I’m thinking of:

  • What frames your worldview?
  • What comes onto your radar / into your frame, easily, naturally & with strength & grace?
  • And what lies under your radar / outside of your frame of reference, in those dark spaces that are unknown, foreign, awkward or difficult?


So in the spirit of celebrating a variety of worldviews:

  • Here’s to the gifts of the Mountain Life Lenses™, who helps us look up & see the bigger picture.  And here’s to the strength of their opposite, the Carrot Life Lenses™ which help us look down & see details & systems
  • And here’s to the perspective of the Stop Life Lenses™ which help us pause, reflect & ruminate, while the Go Life Lenses™ help us jump in, take action, & experiment,
  • Here’s to the Heart Life Lenses™ whose intuition & radar are so beautifully attuned & to the Head Life Lenses™  who focus on what’s tangible, what we can touch taste & see.
  • And finally here’s to the Journey Life Lenses™  who focus on the ‘how’ or the process & here’s to the Destination Life Lenses™ who focus on getting things done.

I’d already started playing around with the new clips app- which is what I used to film the above video.  And in the spirit of keeping it raw & real, yes I know the auto captions aren’t perfect.  Consider it a work in progress.

So in a combined toast to national sunglasses day – & how we see the world, how each of us has at the same time a unique & different perspective but also a shared perspective – here’s to you.

I hope you enjoy this short video from the perspective of each of the Life Lenses™. Because when you put them altogether the world is definitely a pretty cool, colourful place.


Your turn – take action:

  • Which perspectives or Life Lenses™ are you naturally drawn to? And how does this help you in your work & play life?
  • And which perspectives or Life Lenses™  seem foreign or different to you? And how could you use them to get a new take, a new perspective, fresh insight?


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Intercultural communication- When up is down & down is up

Have you ever been in a situation where up seemed down & vice versa, where the ‘rules’ didn’t seem to apply?

As I was waiting to upgrade my mobile phone chip recently I looked down at the ticket stub the agent had given me to indicate where I was in the queue – number 098. I looked up at the screen that listed the numbers (pictured above). I looked down again. Back up. My number was nowhere to be found.

I waited a minute. Checked the screen again. Same story.

Puzzled, I then had an even more puzzling talk with the clerk.

Then the penny dropped.

I was expecting my number to appear at the bottom of the list & move up the closer I was to being served.

Nuh uh. Numbers appear at the top, only when it’s your turn to be served & move down the list after you’re served.

And so it goes, living in a culture that I wasn’t born into. As a transplanted Canadian living in Kenya, I frequently don’t understand what’s going on around me (& that isn’t just because I don’t speak Swahili).

This cultural balancing act can be confusing & frustrating, but ultimately fascinating. It boils down to building my intercultural resilience muscles.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is culture?

Culture is …

  • What makes meaning in our lives
  •  The collective programming of the mind that divides us into groups
  • The interpretive lens through which we view the worldSources: Binns, B; Yukon College; Plog and Bates; Huber, M.; LeBaron Duryea.


Does a fish see the water it swims in?


Culture is so big we often can’t see it (especially if we’re surrounded by those who have a similar culture).

Some components of culture ….

Culture is made up of a ton of elements, such as:

  • How one gains respect
  • Family
  • Gender roles
  • Communication
  • Roles of community
  • Education (value and type of)
  • Role of leisure
  • Sexuality
  • Material possessions
  • Child rearing
  • Role of work
  • Conflict
  • Role of the aged & the young
  • Time
  • Ethnicity


Intercultural communication

Defining culture broadly, like above, means that almost every communication is an intercultural communication. For example;

  • If you’re communicating with a colleague who is a different gender from you, that’s intercultural communication
  • If you’re communicating with someone from a different generation from you, that’s intercultural communication
  • If you’re communicating with someone who has a different form of education, a different view of the role of work or leisure or of the role of the young &/or aged, those are all intercultural communications

Even though almost every communication is an intercultural communication, culture is rarely at the centre of our awareness when we’re communicating.


So how do we put culture in the centre of our communications?

You can improve your intercultural communication skills by focusing more on the right hand column below than the left.


So the next time you find yourself in a situation where up is down and down is up, consider the role that culture is playing. And move forward by asking lots of questions, observing, finding more than one way to deal with the situation, working collaboratively and staying away from a simplistic grocery list approach. It’s not easy but it’s always interesting.


Your turn – take action:

  • Think about what intercultural communications you’ve had recently. How did it go? What helped &/or hindered the communication?
  • Check out this intercultural communication video (2:42 min). Obviously there will be lots of individuals who don’t fit these categories, but the images are thought provoking.
  • Feel free leave a comment below & let me know your intercultural comments or questions.

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