My fascinating and highly-entertaining interview with Allan Pease. Find out why the first four minutes are crucial when meeting someone and what three things you need to know in a cross-cultural exchange.
NE: Allan Pease, welcome to Dubai, I’ll start by asking what you have on the agenda here for people in the UAE.
AP: We’ve got a seminar of business people and we’re going to show them what happens in the first four minutes of meeting somebody for the first time, because in that first four minutes we decide up to 90 per cent of our impression of that other person, and we decide pretty quickly whether we’re likely to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to anything they’re likely to propose so if you’re going for a job interview, or trying to sell an idea or convince someone and you get that four minutes wrong, you’re in trouble.
Also I’m talking about the differences in how men’s and women’s brains function and how they would perceive the same thing very differently and that’s a new concept here, because women in business is a new concept in the Middle East.
NE: Yes, you were telling me a story just earlier about an experience in Bahrain?
AP: Well in Bahrain, I was there twelve years ago when the airport was a tin-shed and I did a couple of big seminars then and it was all men. This week I did a seminar in Bahrain. There were 600 delegates and 400 were Generation-Y women – which is under-32 – in business suits, all with iPhones and iPads, doing business and that is a dramatic change in culture for anyone in the Middle East.
NE: So that’s gender differences, but in terms of cultural differences, how do you have to tailor what you say according to where your delegates are from?
AP: Well in Dubai it’s a very multicultural place, you’ve got people from every culture, you need to be aware of that if you want to be persuasive. Now the basic body language gestures are the same regardless of culture, because gestures are an outward expression of your emotions. As humans we feel the same emotions: we feel happy, sad, joyful, angry, concealing, superior: we all feel the same emotions so the basic gestures supporting those are the same.
What changes in cultures are three things, the first of those is how far away you can stand. In business, men in Dubai stand 30 centimetres away as opposed to most Westerners from cities who stand 45 centimetres away, so for me as an Australian, if I wasn’t aware of this, I’d think ‘hey this guy’s standing right in my face’ and I’m likely to step back just to give myself some space, and he starts thinking ‘Allan’s a bit distant, a bit stand-off’ so he moves forward to make himself feel comfortable and I think, ‘hey he’s moved in on me again’ and
suddenly we’ve got enormous tension that’s not good for business. So distance is an important cultural difference.
Eye contact is important as well. In this region, the locals, if they’re really intent on what you’re saying, and to show respect they’ll look at you and not look away, now to many cultures that can be seen as staring. Now if they were Japanese for example, the Japanese would think, ‘hey this guy’s staring me out, he’s aggressive’ which isn’t the case, he’s showing respect, and as the Japanese look away, the locals think he must be sneaky, he won’t look at me, and then cultural problems exist.
The third thing is touching, where you can touch and how long you can touch. A funny thing that happens in this region with locals, particularly local indigenous people is when men particularly will meet, they’ll shake hands, and if it’s a good friend, you’ll keep holding the guy’s hand and of course in Australia you’d have to marry that man if that was the case! But here they’ll hold his hand, or they’ll go for a kiss. Often three kisses starting from your right, so the rule is you kiss from the right. Now in Belgium they do three kisses, but starting from the other side so if a Belgian comes here and goes to do a kiss, you’re probably going to meet in the middle and have a big kiss. Very embarrassing!
©2012 Noni Edwards. All rights reserved.