Courtesy (5)

Ben ik  nou zo bot, of zijn jullie nou zo beleefd? (2)

In de eerste blog met deze titel (hier te lezen) beweerden we dat Nederlanders helemaal niet zulke botte harken zijn als ze af en toe in Engelstalige ogen lijken. Maar met een paar regeltjes in het achterhoofd hoeven ze dat niet eens meer te lijken. Kortom, in sneltreinvaart 10 tips om ietsje minder als de spreekwoordelijke Botte Kaaskop over te komen.

Frans Trompenaars (a Dutch expert in cross-cultural communication) once said that asking a Dutch audience for feedback after one of his workshops was “much the same as being machine gunned”.

We all know that the Dutch value honesty, are direct, ‘call a spade a spade’, ‘don’t like to mince their words’ etc. However, this directness or ‘honesty’ can come over as blunt, bordering onto rude and disconcerting for those untrained in the ways of the Dutch. At the same time, it is often appreciated.

Of course, you could say that those internationals living in the Netherlands should just get used to it; their misinterpretation of rude is because they are interpreting it from their own cultural perspective. Nevertheless, successful communication is all about adapting your message to the audience – whether that be in a presentation, meeting, email or social setting.

So, if you would like to take the edge off your message, try a few of the following tips:

  1. Avoid overusing ‘will you’ in requests. Instead try using ‘would you’, ‘could you’ plus the all-important ‘please’.
  2. Use would, could or might to sound more tentative. For example, instead of saying ‘that is a problem’, try ‘that would/could/might be a problem’.
  3. Present your view or suggestion as a question, not a statement. Instead of ‘we’ll offer them a settlement’ try ‘why don’t we offer them a settlement?’.
  4. Use ‘I’m afraid’ or ‘unfortunately’ if you are going to say something you know is unhelpful e.g. ‘I’m afraid that’s our best offer’.
  5. Use qualifiers such as a bit, a slight to sound more cooperative and flexible. For example, ‘we have a bit of a problem with this clause’ sounds like you are more flexible than ‘we have a problem with this clause’.
  6. Avoid negative language. Instead use not plus a positive word e.g. ‘that’s not a very good idea’ instead of ‘that’s a bad idea.
  7. Avoid direct statements such as ‘you said that …’. Use ‘I understood …’ instead.
  8. Avoid use of ‘want’ in requests and offers. Use ‘would like’ instead.
  9. Be careful with your use of ‘must’ and ‘have to’. Couldn’t you use ‘should’ instead?

And please… please remember the all-important ‘please’, which accompanies every request, and ‘thank you’ as an acknowledgment.