(Note: This transcript has been edited for readability.)
As a young officer, back in the 80s, I was deployed to the Middle East, and I was part of a special operations forces task force. And one day, we were conducting a maritime exercise with a country in the region, out in the Arabian Gulf, and the boat caught on fire. It was their vessel and the boat caught on fire. And that was quite a crisis, you know, that’s serious business. Well, the American operators kind of jumped into action to get things under control, even though it wasn’t our boat, it was their boat. They did nothing. They did absolutely nothing. This was my introduction to concepts like fate and faith in that part of the region. Because their response, it’s well known now, but their response was, “Inshallah.” You know, “If God wills it.” I don’t know if I’d even heard about that expression before that day. Okay? And when that happened, I learned about, not just that expression, but about their worldview and concepts like fate and faith, which were very different than my worldview. And I had to, you know, begin to adjust accordingly, and it shaped the way I interacted with them in the future.
A culture expert discusses an experience that developed his perspective-taking skills.