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How do you show respect?

Pic Credit: Ambro

Pic Credit: Ambro

How we accord status and who we respect is largely influenced by our cultural programming. 

Generally speaking, if you're raised in Northern or Western countries, knowledge and experience are important. So you will more naturally respect people for what they do, especially when they are "self-made", "accountable", and "go-getters". Trompenaars called this an Achievement culture. 

If you're raised in Southern or Eastern countries, generally speaking, it's more important who you are. You are probably more likely to respect people for their family name, the position they hold, their age and seniority. Trompenaars called this an Ascription culture. 

What does this mean in global business teams? 

When people from achievement and ascription cultures work together, they will show trust, respect, and leadership in different ways. They will also negotiate and communicate differently.  


For example, in Germany, team members may openly disagree with their boss during a meeting. This is seen as an exertion of their expertise; it is their job to speak up when they see something is not right or not working. That's what they were hired to do: take responsibility for their piece of the puzzle. They show respect by asking questions.

Someone who always agrees and says "yes" to everything will not be trusted.

Someone who doesn't keep eye contact will not be trusted.

Someone with various degrees may be respected, but only if they can follow up and apply their knowledge to actual problems.

To lead means to take responsibility and make decisions.

Communication is quite direct, simple yes and no answers are welcomed - they are short and efficient.

Negotiations will not be overly drawn out or going through too many rounds, because everyone is aware of the rules and pricing is set at a fair point from the get-go. 


For example, in Korea, team members will not openly disagree with their boss during a meeting; on the contrary. They show respect by taking the blame on them if the boss messes up. 

Excessive eye contact may be rude, and trust is established over years of friendships or shared connections.

Team members take responsibility for one another, and would be uncomfortable if singled out. That's why incentives pay rarely work; when one person is selected to receive a bonus or even go attend a special training, they will feel obliged to buy presents for the rest of the team who can't go to save face and remain a member of the in-group.

To lead means to take responsibility for the people who work for you.

Communication is indirect, and a direct "no" would be considered rude.

Negotiations or business talk will take time, because trust has to be established first and can be a long drawn-out process. Contracts may be seen as a starting point for the relationship, and flexibility to change contracts is expected.  


Bridging the gap

If you're from an achievement culture working for an ascription leader,

  • try not to disagree out loud in front of others.
  • Know that they may not see you as equal and might therefore be uncomfortable if you invite them out for happy-hour after work.
  • If you work with ascription team members, ask open-ended questions and watch for body-language cues. They may not tell you "no".

If you're from an ascription culture working for an achievement leader,

  • know that your opinion is valued and that it's ok for you to give it.
  • Of course, Westerners also get embarrassed, but if your feedback is too indirect, they may not hear you.
  • If you work with achievement team members, prepare for constructive feedback and learn to differentiate between the relationship and the task.
  • Criticism is rarely directed at the person, but more on aspects of how the job is done. 

Within those broad cultural differences, I also believe our personality type plays a role. In this case, our Temperament: 

People with a Theorist™ Temperament value expertise, knowledge, competence, and self-control. If they have posters up on their walls or screensavers it's likely smart experts and pioneering visionaries like Einstein or Jobs. 

People with a Catalyst™ Temperament value meaning, significance, and unique identity. They are likely inspired by authentic role models who share their journey to self-realization like Brené Brown or Oprah.  

People with a Stabilizer™ Temperament value membership, belonging, responsibility, and duty. They are likely admiring others who serve society; the every-day heroes we see in soldiers, fire fighters, and nurses.  

People with an Improviser™ Temperament value the freedom to act now, and the ability to make an impact. They may be motivated to get active for causes they believe in, or be fans of entertainers. 

So - who do you respect, and how do you show it?


I love how the answer to most question seems to be "yes, and" and "depends". The article below emphasizes how both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, and I've laid out how the location / nationality makes a difference. In other words: use both as needed, and start with the people in mind.  

from "Connect, then lead" at 

Most leaders today tend to emphasize their strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace, but that is exactly the wrong approach. Leaders who project strength before establishing trust run the risk of eliciting fear, and along with it a host of dysfunctional behaviors. Fear can undermine cognitive potential, creativity, and problem solving, and cause employees to get stuck and even disengage. (...)
A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.




Self-Esteem Needs - Confidence, Achievement, Respect

Copyright Bill Watterson, Awesomest Cartoonist Ever. This one's for accompanying spouses without work-permit in particular: If you are used to being employed, not earning a living changes your sense of self. America is the country of “what do you do?” and the common lack of spousal employment during international assignments is the biggest factor of discontent. Maybe you’re choosing not to work, maybe you’re planning on starting a family, maybe you’ve never worked, or maybe you didn’t get a work-permit: living abroad will burst open even the tiniest cracks of self-doubt.

Become aware of your limiting beliefs that affect your

self-worth. Many are tied to numbers: the scale, the bank account, or friends on Facebook. If you find yourself spiraling into negative self-talk, try a coaching process called cognitive restructuring.

Cognitive restructuring works for thoughts or beliefs that are causing you pain. It helps you examine them and find more helpful alternatives, one belief or thought at a time. There are resources like The Work or of course you can talk with your Coach to get a personalized solution.

There are many ways to make a difference, even if you’re not allowed to work. Learn something in the local college or through an online course. Immerse yourself in the language and culture, you’ll be building marketable skills for your return! Learn to measure your contribution not in money or numbers, but in happiness, or time spent with your kids, or memories created with your partner.

What plans have you always postponed that you could now make time for? Write a book, start to paint, let out all the creative energy you’ve been storing up.



It is often said, Western civilization tends to follow the “having” and “doing” path, where a person’s value is measured by achievement. Eastern civilization, on the other hand, subscribes more to the concept of “being”. Consider the cultural difference in the two approaches: “doing” implies a person is the steward of their own fate, there’s the potential of upward mobility. “Being” implies acceptance and is often tied to the social status you’re born into.

Respect is a two-way street. As an expat, you are walking, living, and breathing diversity. What were your thoughts on immigration back home? How does it feel to be a foreigner yourself?

The more you know, the more you’ll understand what motivates our behaviors. Learn about your own culture and the one you’re moving to. Recognize behaviors are influenced by our values and our different interpretations of the same. The Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do to you” does not work across cultures. Apply the Platinum Rule instead: “treat everyone the way they want to be treated”.



My recent school reunion

I've just been reading through some of the last posts and found that I still owe you an account of the recent highschool reunion I went to! So, as promised in The Perfect Myth, here goes:I was nervous, but I brought help: a little Dutch courage and a great friend. Of course, the timing of this event was great, too. It was just one week after my Coaching Seminar, in which I had such a great time and ample opportunity to learn about myself, my reaction to others and their possible reactions to me, so its effects were still palpable. The knowledge that I am good just the way I am and that what I do is sufficient went a long way in making me feel confident. This self-esteem or self-respect if you will empowered me to basically just go in there head held high and confront some of those bad memories I have of my school days.Alas, the guys who had worst offended me weren't there. I can only speculate that their presence wouldn't have made a difference, because I had fun and once I was there, the fear and nervousness was gone. There were a couple of moments when I wanted to fall back into my old teenager-habits of pleasing others by making myself as insignificant as possible, but that's when my friend swooped in and sang my praises. I never could deal well with compliments, but I'm learning to accept them gracefully when they're bestowed. The way I see it, it's the greatest compliment that someone special thinks just as highly of you as you do of them - so why fight it? In the end, I had the chance to reconnect with childhood friends and I'm also more or less up-to-date in terms of village-gossip. What was most interesting though was to find out that people I thought never liked me when we were young now came up to me and we had nice conversations. I'm pretty sure I didn't imagine their hostile attitudes all those years ago, so what has changed? We've grown older and wiser and just want to get along with everybody? Perhaps. Or is it that my own attitude has changed and that maybe they're still behaving the same way but I'm now listening with different ears? I'm not ready and willing anymore to take any and every criticism to heart and think they're right. I now refuse to accept evaluations and comments about my behaviour as absolute truths and put-downs of my person. I understand now that kids sometimes lash out not because they're evil but out of uncertainty and insecurity.

I'm not saying all is well and miraculously everybody went from hating to loving me. I'm sure some people still can't stand my guts, and that's ok. What I'm saying is, I've found a way to deal with that fact. And if I can, so can you. There simply is no pleasing everybody, and it may help to keep in mind that there are people you don't like either. After all, we can't change other people, we can only change ourselves, our attitudes. Once you're ok with yourself, once you find that esteem and respect for yourself, the stuff other people say about you won't knock you off balance so easily.

I invite you this week to think about things you can do to feel good about yourself. In case you get stuck, call a friend. :-)

Til next time!



Opportunity for change No. 2 - pleasing others vs. pleasing yourself

You're probably still pretty good at your job though, at least good enough for your boss and colleagues to know that they can't live without you. Combine that with your helpful attitude and friendly demeanor, and you find yourself swamped with little bits and pieces clogging your schedule that may not even be in your job description! But, not wanting to appear rude and desperate to prove you're a team-player, you do them anyway. As a result you're stressed and busy, sometimes feeling like a headless chicken, and every evening you come home you're too tired to do anything more than kick off your shoes, grab a glass of wine, munch on fast or microwaveable food and plonk down on the couch in front of the television. Again, I've experienced that, and probably so have you. The keyword here is boundaries. Yes, you're a nice person. Yes, you're helpful. Yes, it'd be quicker if you did it all yourself instead of explaining it to someone else, with the added benefit of you knowing it's been done right. Can you tell there's a "but" just around the corner? Here it is: Continuously helping out others to the point of neglecting your actual responsibilities and health will not necessarily make them like, respect or value you more than they do or do not do already. "This'll just take a minute..." is fine and well, but is is a minute that you most likely had already set aside doing something else. Now, who should be in charge of deciding which minute and which task is more important? This is your time we're talking about!

Nobody's saying anything against helping out a colleague when they're in a tight spot and you have some time to spare. There's a lot to be said for guarding yourself against the office-slackers who make it their business to seek out colleagues they can exploit and regularly roll off some of their workload on though. It is likely they will play on your kindness and be indeed grateful ("You're the best, thanks ever so much"), or appeal to your ego ("You're really so much better at this than I am"). Alright, those phrases have been uttered sincerely too, so you'll just have to go with your gut-feeling if you're being used or truly appreciated.

If you're not sure about what that gut-feeling is, think it through a little. When approached for help you rarely have to answer yes or no on the spot. Take a moment and ask yourself some questions to find out how you feel about entering that commitment (and it is a commitment, assuming you're not likely to say you'll help and then eventually turn around and say you didn't have time after all). For example, is this a reasonable request? Does the colleague genuinely need help because they cannot perform the task at hand? Are you the best person they could ask for help or would somebody else be more suited? Does your schedule permit you taking out the time you would need to help the other out, or would it put you under pressure regarding your deadlines? If this is a recurring issue, would it be possible to speak to a superior about re-distributing responsibilities? Why do you think you should help them? What do you get out of it? What is

your motivation?

If you're new to the position or the company, don't dismiss enquiring colleagues too quickly, but do be wary. If the same people come to you repeatedly, make the time to sit them down and explain exactly how you do the thing they admire so much, in order for them to learn to do it themselves.

Your position comes with its own set of responsibilities, make sure you see to them accordingly. After all, you are the one who will have to answer for them to your boss eventually. How will the boss react when you tell them you couldn't finish your project because you were busy helping out someone else with their tasks? "Hmm, we have a great team-player here" or more along the lines of "What a pity, that sounds like a distinct lack of prioritising and time management skills."

Putting your responsibilities first is a sign of the respect you have for your position and for yourself. All of us need help sometimes, and we should not be afraid to ask for it. But if you have the feeling someone is taking advantage, don't be afraid to say "No, I'm sorry, I'm busy." This way you will avoid unnecessary stress caused by too many open issues that are not even yours to worry about in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, saying "no" to something or someone does not make you a bad person. It makes you an aware person who knows their limits, and that is a very good quality to have.

I invite you to think about all the people in your life, not only in your job, as this powerful concept of boundaries applies to family members and friends as well. Who do you feel comfortable being around? Who would you rather not spend time with? Are there some who take more of your energy than they give? Is there anyone who you feel doesn't respect you? In what way are they behaving? Is there anything you can do about that?

Who says that a nice glass of wine after work is only reserved to the overly stressed-out, by the way. You still deserve to decompress in any way that works for you! Come back next week for more articles on opportunity for change, and have a look at your work-life balance.

Til next time!