A Greek, A Swamper and a Japanese Urbanite

July 15, 2014

By Emy Brubacher

I just returned from a trip to drive a 42 foot trawler boat across the Mediterranean from Spain to Greece. On the boat was a Greek gentleman, a self-proclaimed “swamper” from Ontario, and myself, a Japanese born urbanite. I quickly learned how vital communication is when you are cramped together in a small space for over 150 hours.

Perhaps according to culture, or because of his seniority, the Greek man was very forthcoming in speaking his mind. He was not shy to say exactly what he thought or wanted. Initially this offended my Japanese sensibilities; I must confess it was like being a child chastised. However, I quickly realized, if I set aside my ego, he was not intentionally trying to reprimand or upset me, he was simply speaking his mind.

In our western society, we often say that communication is 5% words and 95% body language and tone. However, how effective is this? We carefully guard our words to protect others and ourselves but what are we protecting? Our ego. If we set that aside, communication would become much simpler. Not to say we need to blurt out everything as it comes to our mind; we still need to evaluate how we say things to make sure we are using the right words, but we need to be more straightforward with how we think and feel. So much miscommunication happens not because of the words we speak, but in people trying to interpret our body language and tone.

When someone tells you what they are thinking, their perspective, appreciate that they are trying to be open and honest. You do not necessarily have to agree, but at least you know where they are coming from, which makes negotiating so much easier. And don’t be afraid to speak your mind, diplomatically and respectfully of course, but what you have to say has value. 


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Knowledge. Clarity. Action.