As a former teacher of ESL (English as a Second Language) I have lived and worked in Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Even the differences between the Japanese and Korean cultures can be great, but I especially remember what a jarring experience it was to leave the Kuwaiti desert one day and find myself on Tokyo’s Ginza the next evening. Surviving in these vastly different cultures required paying attention and learning as much as I could. I still draw from what I learned and am able to apply it in the world of business.
In my previous career, I attended a conference on teaching writing. The presenter (a teacher who taught foreign students in the United States) read an essay written by one of her pupils. I still remember the event, probably because it left a number of the people in the audience in tears. The student described her experience trying to live and communicate in the United States. Her essay was filled with frustration and many painful stories mostly because she struggled with trying to be understood.
The essay ended with the student thanking her teacher and in fact all ESL teachers. She concluded that the major difference between her experience inside and outside the classroom was that her teachers tried, wanted and made an effort to understand her. Outside the classroom, this was not her experience. The people she met seemed as though they could not be bothered to try to understand this young Vietnamese woman with poor pronunciation and syntax.
We can learn a great deal from this student and her story particularly when applied to the topic of Conflict Resolution. When we approach conflict that we wish to resolve, the single most important factor is simply the desire to do so. I would argue that without the desire to resolve the conflict (and the other person perceiving this desire), success is considerably less likely.
The next time you face conflict, forget about what you wish for yourself and let the other know that you are trying, wanting and making an effort to resolve the conflict. It will take you far down the path of reaching your goal.
Executive Coach, MSBCoach
Joe Ruff is a teacher, coach and performance improvement specialist. Joe sincerely believes in and advocates for life-long learning. He has been employed by both academia and the business world and aside from the United States, has lived and worked in Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Joe has a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Communications from Rochester Institute of Technology and master’s degrees in Instructional Design and Linguistics from and Indiana University.
To demonstrate his commitment to life-long learning, at the age of 49, Joe returned to school and completed a master’s in Educational Administration from Harvard University. Joe was employed by Arthur Andersen and a clinical research organization. For the last five years, he has worked in the insurance industry where he coaches vice-presidents and managers. He has also coached faculty and students at several universities. Joe uses a variety of techniques he learned in graduate level psychology classes as well as business courses and certifications which include: Performance Management Basics, Human Performance Improvement and Essential Facilitation.