A few weeks ago I wrote about adapting to the English culture. In the past two weeks I’ve realized important lessons that are critical to success in the UK and likely useful back in the states as well. At their core, these lessons are to do with politeness and understanding the levels of politeness required to accomplish key tasks.
The first lesson took me a while to realize given my background in the Tech industry but should have been self-evident from my time in politics. If you want something done, don’t send an email talk to the person as directly as possible. If you can only give them a call then call them. If you can add video-chat like we had at the click of a button at Google, then do it. However if you really want to get something done, politely invade someone’s personal sense of space and time.
They cannot get upset with you as helping you is part of their job, but they also cannot ignore you because you are right there ready to have a polite, calm conversation with them. I re-iterate, have a polite conversation. You don’t deserve a solution, you are doing this in person to help speed up the process, eliminating back-and-forth that email creates. You being there in person is a gift to whomever you need something from as then they can quickly get it finished. Being there in person means they can’t ignore you but it also means they can complete the task and move on. In the past few weeks I’ve applied this dozens of times and in the UK especially it is critical. Relying on email slows things down, saying “Hiya, how’s your day going?” in person gets shit done.
The second lesson is to couch everything negative (and I mean EVERYTHING) in a polite shit-sandwich. Personally I prefer just the criticism straight-up so I know where to get better. Maybe its the East Coast blood in my veins (Mom & Granny were born in NYC) but this is the more effective way to couch things. A fantastic Brit articulate this to me in the clearest way possible with the following example. She told me, to deliver a critique simply say the following “The meal you cooked me was brilliant! … The-sex-was-shitI LOVE your kitchen.” Complete with saying the middle section fast and moving onto the 2nd compliment almost without taking a breath.
Since that moment I’ve begun to couch any criticism I have in a shit-sandwich only to see it eaten quite handily. Apparently this means I am becoming more british but I think that these lessons apply back in the states as well. Its an important lesson to learn and the Brits have definitely helped me internalize it!