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Small talk is never about yourself.

1.  Be interested, not interesting
2.  Ask Open Ended Questions
3.  Be current and relevant
4. Turn off the inner critic
5. Be comfortable with yourself.

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I recently bought a bag of wing beans from the market with the intention of replicating a dish I ate at Betel Nut, a peranakan restaurant. I found a recipe on the internet. It was an easy stir fry dish. A few days later, the wing beans turned black and had to be thrown away.

What happened? Inertia. I just could not get started.

What was I afraid of, that I could not start a project that took only 30 mins, including prep time?

If I failed, who would know? Just open the dustbin and throw away the evidence.

Inertia.

I signed up for a class, Cookery Magic.

Being in a class with hands on and a patient teacher certainly helped.

It made me think of Kurt Lewin’s Change Process. What prevents people from changing?

The first stage is unfreezing our old habits that are no longer effective.

That prevents unfreezing?
1) Inertia
2) Mistrust
3) Lack of Information

I am on a quest to improve my craft. It all started with a clipboard and a piece of paper and asking myself:

What are my goals?
Whats stopping me ?

Truth be told, my colleagues gave me a voucher for the Cookery Magic course in 2008 when I left INSEAD.

10 years to use the voucher. Bless Roxanna for still honouring the voucher as most organisations would only have a 8 mth validity.

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Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
– Lewis Carroll

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What’s your cure for overcoming inertia?

Stuck with small talk this Chinese New Year or don’t know what auspicious words to greet your host?

This week’s Mandarin on Mondays, I’d like to introduce auspicious words and symbols.

My favourite red packet envelope in order.

1. Microsoft

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The Dog is considered a lucky animal by Chinese. A stray dog wandering into one’s home symbolise fortune is coming.

A dog’s bark symbolise fortune coming. How do dogs bark in your culture? Chinese dogs bark “wang wang” 旺旺 – same sound as fortune coming.

Wish you prosperity during Year of Dog. 祝你狗年旺旺旺。
祝你十犬十美

2. Seletar Aerospace Park

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Anything bound for flight. Flying birds, aeroplanes.

Wish you promotion.
祝你 – 飞黄腾达
步步高升 (bù bù gāo shēng): May you rise steadily (at work).
平步青云 (píng bù qīng yún): May you rise rapidly in the world (social status or career).

飞黄腾达
fēihuáng-téngdá/
神马腾空奔驰(飞黄:古代传说的神马名。比喻官职、地位迅速上升。)

3. Sun Yatsen Museum

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Bat (蝙蝠 – biānfú) – longevity, happiness, good luck (the Chinese word for bat, “蝠” (fú) sounds like the word for good fortune

Here, there are Five Blessings, bat, cloud, pomegranate, peony (a long life, riches, health, love of virtue and a natural death). 五福临门。

4. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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Which has a fabulous collection of crabs.

螃蟹 pangxie – Crab symbolise promotion in social status because crabs like to crawl. Shell of Crab 甲 jia represents being top in exams. Xie sounds like harmony 协 xie as in 合心协力.
http://www.mahjongtreasures.com/tag/crab-symbolism-in-chinese-art/

5. Public Utilities Board

With their iconic Water Wally reminding us of the importance of Water. Running Water symbolise wealth.

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Why you need to learn mandarin and not trust google translate. One wonders about the Tamil translation.

Small change unavailable here(此处无小额零钱可兑换)”则译成了“小的更改无法在这里”。Change in this context refers to coins for the ticket vending machine. Whereas if you had used google translate, it will use “change” as in “improve”, ie “make changes to”.

Good intentions to appeal to a multiracial group need #mindfulness# in execution.

Source:
https://www.channel8news.sg/news8/singapore/20180204-sg-smrt-translation/3951612.html

With the increasing interest in Asia and globalisation of the world economy, cracking the cultural code has become important.

Beyond handing namecards with both hands and bowing, what are some of the differences in East and West. Both Hofstede and Trompenaars are very insightful in outlining some challenges to watch out for.

I came across a very practical book on cracking the cultural code. However it involves observation. India is different from China from South Korea from Indonesia from Malaysia.

Where are some of your challenges?

1. Making small talk with colleagues
2. Asking a favour from a colleague
3. Promoting myself at networking events
4. Receiving compliment from colleagues
5. Telling a joke at lunch
6. Giving feedback to my boss
7. Giving a formal presentation at a meeting
8. Pitching my idea to investors
9. Interviewing for a job

In the section on “You can be a Cultural Detective”, Prof Molinsky suggests to use a series of diagnostic questions, using the 6 dimensions of the cultural code he coined.

1. Brevity and en pointe:
Do people tend to be succinct in what they say and get right to the point – often with as few words as possible?

Or do they use words more general, or ambiguous poetic language, hinting at what they mean without being too direct? Senior Chinese government officials tend to favour reference to Tang poems for instance.

There are regional differences in that regard.

2. Energy
When something positive has happened, do people express emotions openly through facial expressions, body language and tone of voice eg Mediterranean cultures. Or do they tend to hide or suppress the outward expression of positive emotions despite their feelings, example British stiff up lip.

3. Formality
Do people dress conservatively, make official appointments to speak with each other and use titles such as “Doctor” or “CEO” . Or do they dress casually, drop by casually for a chat or first name basis. Do not be deceived by outward appearances though. Sometimes people may want to be addressed by first name but they are very formal.

4. Assertiveness
Do people express views strongly and forcefully. Is conflict encouraged? Do people express different view points in meetings? Or do they express opinions in a cautious manner and public display of conflict or disagreement is frowned?

Here, there is a difference in hierarchy. Those at the top tend to be more forceful.

5. Self promotion
Do people tend to highlight or draw attention to their personal accomplishments or tend to minimise, underplay their achievements?

6. Personal disclosure
Do people keep conversations strictly about business or do they discuss details of their personal lives with colleagues at work? In Asian cultures, people do discuss details of family life.

How much to ask depends on the seniority. Do not be surprised if an older colleague were to ask how much you earn, and your age. Such invasion of privacy may be uncomfortable for an American, who although comfortable with small talk will consider such topics taboo. A German boss on the other extreme will unlikely ask questions about your family as this would be considered too personal.

Global Dexterity , how to adapt your behaviour across cultures without losing yourself in the process” by Andy Molinsky
395.52 MOL (NLB)

SMU Associate Professor Tan Hwee Hoon is investigating on how trust is influenced by culture. In a cross-culture longitudinal study, the research team is examining dimensions of trust depending on 1. Ability 2. Benevolence 3. Integrity.

In American culture, trust is highest when the imdividual is deemed to have high ability. Whereas in Asian culture, benevolence or whether a person has consistently shown that he/she watches your back is more important.

Stay tuned as she prepares to publish her report.

Hilarious look at cultural differences between East and West
https://www.boredpanda.com/comics-chinese-western-culture-comparison-tinyeyescomics/

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/the-man-who-brought-hope-inspirasian-9494998
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I chanced this write up at Brightside. #What $1 brings you#. A snicker bar in Japan, a bowl of chicken rice in Indonesia, a can of coca cola in a hawker centre in Singapore.

https://brightside.me/wonder-curiosities/what-1-dollar-will-buy-you-around-the-world-386510/

This year I am inspired to do more. My students in SMU inspire me. Many of them genuinely want a career in helping profession.

Watch Corine Tiah’s documentary on an Inspiration Asian Ken who trekked the hills to bring light to the villagers.

Incidentally, Corine is a journalist whose documentaries are about #people who bring hope to others#.

#Fragrance lingers on the hand that gives flowers#

#CNA#, #InspirAsian#, #$1#

My favourite sayings from Prof Koh’s interview:

1. “I was always optimistic. Even when I faced great challenges, I retained my optimism and positive mindset, kept my sense of humour, and always thought – there must be a way of solving problems.”

2. When he negotiates, he starts on the basis that “at the end of the day, we are human beings, so let’s be friends first, try to develop a relationship, some trust in each other. Don’t see each other as an adversary, but if we have a difficult problem, let’s look at the problem”.

3. CQ, or cultural intelligence, is crucial.
“We live in different cultural boxes, so when we work with either one of our neighbours, we must understand their cultural box and where they’re coming from and how they think and, if possible, conduct ourselves in a manner that would be acceptable or indeed even admired by them.

4. On negotiations in the UN. “I show him friendship and warmth. I try not to embarrass him and put him down”.

5. Even if I win every point, it means that my counterpart lost every point. So how can he go back home and sell the package if he lost every point?

6. “we must protect our core interests. But on non-core issues, we must concede so that you have a balanced outcome, one that is durable.”

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/lunch-with-sumiko-professor-tommy-koh-on-winning-friends-and-influencing-people