When visiting a foreign country with a language other than your mother tongue, it’s usually a good idea to spend some time learning key phrases. For example, when friends come to Italy most people know the word for “Thank you” (“grazie,” pronounced grat-zee-ay). I usually teach them 3 more words: vorrei questo/quello (pronounced vorr-ay-ee kway-stoe/kway-low). This simple phrase is a polite way to say “I would like this/that” and, in conjunction with pointing, is so handy when you want food, a souvenir, or the quickest way to a restroom.
These simple words go a long way to demonstrate that you care enough to be polite, and are trying to meet people where they are. In fact, you can totally butcher the phrases and people will appreciate you trying. This isn’t because you’re some genius, or because you’re doing something exceedingly well, it’s because you’re doing something that most people don’t even attempt. They’d rather not do the work and have people come to them.
When it comes to work, we have the same opportunity. Not only is there common language amongst our colleagues, but we also have tools, workflows and personalities to understand too. Each of these things requires more effort than the equivalent of showing up and speaking your native tongue in a foreign land.
In all of these situations, between the internet and tour guides (knowledgeable colleagues) it is possible to learn almost anything you need to know in order to meet people halfway.
Are you impressed by someone who’s great with pivot tables? There’s a YouTube video to help you collaborate better. Want to know what the acronym means? Speak up in the meeting (chances are everyone who doesn’t use it every day forgot too). Not sure the best way to integrate business units? Ask the team leads.
So the next time you’re attempting to do pretty much anything, ask yourself: what simple thing can I learn that will set me apart as a conscientious human?