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10 Steps to a More Global You

10 Steps to a More Global You
Globe

    There’s no escaping the fact that the world is getting smaller: your company’s vendors might be in India, with customers in Britain, while you are somewhere in the U.S. That’s why employers, from international non-profits to the mom-and-pop stores down the road, want employees able to think globally. Even college admissions look positively on time spent abroad these days.

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    But picking up for a jaunt to another continent isn’t practical for most of us. We have families, jobs and commitments that mean we have to stay put, and travel isn’t often a cheap option. Despite your current location, however, you can cultivate a more global mindset, usually without spending much money.

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    1. Read international literature. Reading a book written by someone with a drastically different background can be instant exposure to a new culture. You can even do it for free — many public libraries make a point of offering books from different nations. Not sure where to start? Consider this list from three percent, the translation blog from the University of Rochester. Don’t stop with literature, either. Consider reading histories, biographies and other non-fiction that can introduce you to global ideas.
    2. Look for local cultural groups. I use Meetup when I look for a group for anything — apparently there are 31 cultural groups within 20 miles of me, ranging from Japanese language to Brazilian dance. As a rule, these groups are more than welcoming to newcomers — including those with little to no knowledge of the culture in question.
    3. Cook new recipes. It’s possible to try out a recipe for an unfamiliar dish without actually learning much about the culture that dish comes from, but I recommend going all at. Chose a recipe you’re not sure where to start with and head down to the local ethnic grocery store. As long as a store isn’t right in the middle of a rush, I’ve found that most storekeepers are more than willing to help me figure out ingredient lists, and give some extra tips to make sure the dish turns out right.
    4. Volunteer. If you live in the U.S., the odds are pretty good that there is some sort of social agency in your town dedicated to helping immigrants adjust. Especially in smaller towns, churches and religious organizations often provide those programs and always need volunteers for various tasks, from teaching English to watching children. While you may spend quite a bit of time helping people to adjust to American culture, you will also have opportunities to see the differences between their backgrounds and the U.S., through their eyes.
    5. Learn a language. Linguists say that you can’t really learn a language without picking up at least some of the culture, so picking up a new tongue can help with your worldview, as well as your resume. While it may not be the easiest task, it is cheap: sites like BBC Languages offer plenty of free resources and educational CDs and software are available at most public libraries.
    6. Go to local festivals. Growing up in Colorado, one of my favorite fairs was the Scottish Festival and Highland Games. When I moved to Oklahoma, I switched my allegiance to the Greek Festival — better street food! Cultural festivals are chock full of new foods to try, performances to watch and experts who will educate you. Even Oktoberfests have a little bit of culture in there, somewhere.
    7. Watch a foreign film. You don’t have to go to special film festivals or indie theaters to watch foreign films these days. There are plenty of DVD options from Netflix to Best Buy, although I’m often reluctant to purchase DVDs that I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy. However, there are also plenty of movies available online and for download — even YouTube has some options. You can also find lectures and documentaries, and even clips of TV shows from other countries.
    8. Attend lectures. Many schools and other organizations open up lectures to the public, allowing people to get a glimpse into the lives of some very interesting people. Consider Greg Mortenson — he’s on a tour to promote Three Cups of Tea, a book about education in Central Asia. During his lectures, he discusses his experiences and how they have changed his point of view. Most of his lectures are entirely open to the public, although many venues do ask for a donation.
    9. Find a pen pal. I’m not suggesting swapping letters — or, more likely emails and IMs — with just anyone, though. See if an overseas member of your company is willing to share their impressions with you, or find someone working in a similar position in an international company. LinkedIn and other social networks are an ideal place to start looking for these sorts of connections.
    10. Consider your own background. How much do you know about where your family comes from and the reasons behind your traditions? Talking to your older relatives can provide insight into your roots, and may even help you to understand the whys of your own culture.

    Don’t forget, though, that once you’ve developed your global worldview, you need to use it. Try to think of new perspectives for projects and consider how situations would play out in a culture with different expectations. You may not be able to change the world, but you can become aware of it. These insights can even improve your understanding of the mechanics of your own culture. I know my time in other cultures has helped me learn new ways to handle business situations.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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