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Submitted by naraa on


BLUF:  This is what I think, I don´t know if it is my own bias or other people agree with me, a foreign can many times have a perspective of a situation which differs completely from that of the majority of the people from the country one is in.  In order not to offend anyone it is really important to understand what the perspective of the other is before imposing as the right one, ones own perspective of the issue.

THE WHOLE STORY: Yesterday I went to a workshop in Chile about leadership.  One of the talks was from Bruce Blythe, an american professor.  The talk was about managing under uncertainty.   The content of the talk was good.  But he lost any credibility with me when he talked about having a critical turning point in a crisis when the right or wrong decision is made and either the problem is solved successfully or it is not.  As an example he used the Rescue of the 33 miners trapped in a collapsed underground mine in Chile in 2010.  This is what he said the strategic decision for the turning point for the sucess of this event was:

 "The strategic decision they made was to call for international help.  They called the White House."

The drill machine that made the 700 meters hole and got the miners out was indeed from an american company and many americans helped out, but the iniciative, the offer to use it came from a Chilean, from a Chilean mine.

I have Mark´s and Dani´s saying inprinted in my head: "There are more differences among people than there are among cultures."  It is very important to have that saying in ones head, because, I have a confession to make, I am annoyed, and I really have to force myself to get the first thought that came to my mind out of my head when I heard that sentence: "Ah, what an american vision of the world!"  Sorry, I don´t mean to offend anyone, and I know I am wrong to think that. I have many many good american friends who would never ever say that.  Many that have congratulated and acknowledge the actions of the Chilean people on that accomplishment.  

The key not to get it wrong (and I most certainly must have gotten it wrong too) is: "Don´t ever make it about yourself something that does not belong to you."

Please please write me those of you americans that got this far in my emaiil and that also get annoyed with what Bruce Blythe said so that next time perhaps I will not have the through: "Ah what an american vision of the world.", but I will think simply: "What a one person´s vision of the world."




Chris.Lodge's picture

I 100% agree with you Nara.

I am from England and I think that the Americans are under the impression that they are the saviours of the world and that every culture wants to be just like them.
This is what the film “Team America” was taking the mickey out of.
Also, who can forget the classic lines in “Independence Day” between two British pilots: Pilot1 “Sir, the Americans have come up with a plan”, Pilot2 “It's about bloody time! What do they plan to do?” Makes me smile every time.
 Having said that, I know us brits don’t come out much better.

mtietel's picture
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I know many Americans, including myself, that don't fit your stereotype.   That would be why Manager Tools recommends you treat people as individuals rather than as cloned members of some cartoonish national/ethnic/religious/... group.

Nara - Stick with your "many many good american friends who would never ever say that".  His is one man's opinion; not the opinion of everyone from whatever group you think he's a member of.  And remember, he just poked you with an umbrella, you got annoyed all by yourself...

naraa's picture
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Mtietel, thanks for the response, I will do that.

Chris, I believe the movies and some of the US government actions send the message through of the Americans as the saviours of the world.  Some people buy into it, both Americans and non-americans. 

Everytime we hear an American say or do something that reinforces that we confirm the stereotype, but we do not pay enough attention when they do something else.  It is like the first time I left my then 9 months old baby at home and went on a business travel, all I could see at the airport where babies: they were everywhere!

The key really is what Manager Tools recommends which is not to fall into the stereotype trap.  

I think it is important to be aware of one´s own culture´s stereotype as perceived by other cultures, because one needs to be extra careful in one´s actions and the things one says as most people are observing what we do with their stereotype filter for that culture on.  Just like me as a Brazilian woman need to be extra-careful with what I dress, or else I may get asked, as a Brazilian friend of mine was, about the size of the bikini she wears at the beach!  There is really no fun in being asked that!  Probably in the US the law would retain people from asking, but they would probably still think that, which maybe even worse, as one starts facing prejudices not even being aware that they are there!