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Interview with Frank Garten

Frank Garten is an expert on intercultural communication and management. As the Author of several books and a popular speaker and trainer, he knows the best communication starts with you. In this interview, he gives his insight into working within another culture and why listening is a powerful tool.

What types of results do clients experience after your programmes & keynotes?

There’s two types of results. First of all they have realised that working with other cultures is not about learning tips & tricks about another country. They have experienced it all starts with them: the effect of their own behaviour on others. A confronting insight for some. On top of that, people walk away with very practical tips, about how to write emails, host conference calls in an international environment etc.


What advice would you give to someone who has just started to work with/in another culture?

Listen with the aim to understand. Refrain from judgment, just listen and learn. More importantly though: behave like you would do in your own culture. But explain what you do, and show the other person you know you are culturally biased. “I’m Dutch, and in our culture we are quite direct and confrontational. In my culture, at this point I would just tell you your proposal will not work. You’re not meant to take this personal, but I want to be as clear as I can.


What are the most common barriers in intercultural interactions?

The assumption that my culture is better than yours. So when working with the back office in India, many of us work from the assumption that we know how to run projects, and that they are sloppy and chaotic. When you work from this assumption, you will only find evidence for other people being sloppy and chaotic. But who are we to tell 1.4 billion Indians they are wrong? Work from the assumption that you can learn from them. Then India is rich, fascinating and remarkably effective.


Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?

I always search for the possibility to confront people in the audience with their own behaviour. In my talk I will point out how the dominant culture in the audience comes across to someone from another culture. Those moments are funny, and insightful. When you explain the Swedes how relaxed they come across. When you explain the Americans how ‘simple’ and ‘superficial’ they may come across. When you explain the British how hard it is for others to see what they mean.


What skills are needed to be a good negotiator?

The intuitive answer would be that you need to be articulate, don’t be afraid to confront, and speak convincingly. But that’s just a small part of it. You need to be a very good listener. And we all think we are, but we are not. You need to be a very good observer as well. See and hear everything. And then interpret what you see and hear from their perspective. Why do they do what they do? Why do they say what they say? If you’re able to think from their perspective rather than from your own, you’re a good negotiator.


Who or what inspires you most?

The new generation that comes into the workforce now. I often see so much hidden and unexpressed potential in companies. New generations more show their skills, and have an inner confidence to do what they think needs to be done. I find this very inspiring, and learn from them as much as I can.


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