(Note: This transcript has been edited for readability.)
When I was a younger officer, I served as an advisor in Central America, and I had this counterpart. I had a hard time connecting with this person. We’d go to meetings, he always kinda wanted to try to make me look bad. He didn’t want to listen to my advice no matter how diplomatic I tried to be. Always had a better idea. Through rapport-building, as I began to develop some trust, some understanding, and some respect, I figured out, hey, this guy is a soccer player! And he identifies really strongly as a soccer player! It’s very important to him. So I joined the guy’s soccer team, even though I’m not really much of a soccer player, I went out and played soccer with him. And before you know it, we were knocking down all those walls. I was starting to really get through to him, and shape things, and it was powerful. But that’s a lot of homework. And we have to be active, so it’s not just a matter of showing up at the meeting and, you know, “What’s your name?” and “Let’s get to the first task here.” That, it just doesn’t work in most cultures.
A culture expert discusses focusing on rapport in order to overcome obstacles.