Monday, October 5, 2009

Rude vs Condescending, How To Find The Balance?

My worst experience when I started working in Canada regarding cultural differences was when after leaving a message over the phone to one of my clients, she called back and told the customer service representative that I sounded condescending. I felt so bad!

In Mexico we bend over backwards to offer the best service possible, we put too many words in proposals and business agreements just to make them sound formal and polite. We say thank you so many times; we have so many adjectives to describe things, and we like to put so many of them together... that now that I think about it, I am sure that for such a practical, to-the-point culture as the Canadian, we do sound condescending.

The problem is that after that experience, I think I go to the other extreme. Sometimes I show my husband a letter or e-mail that I intend to send to my employer or a customer for feedback and he finds it too direct, so I don't know if it is just that he is another "condescending" Mexican or in fact I sound almost rude in my intention of being straight forward.

So, how do I find the balance? How can I learn the best way to behave in a culture that is not my own and in which people are too polite to tell me I am being rude (or condescending for that matter)? Is this a cultural issue or a language issue?


  1. Knowing your audience I believe it is a matter of perception, back home people at work found me very straight forward and here I am more approachable and even feel that I’m more lenient in a way…funny how things turn out.

  2. In a way, such things happen on different cultures or situations in a same country even in family!. For me the Context is the key to handle the way to interact with the people. It gives you -not always- the emphasis or words to communicate something. A correct interaction with the people is an skill we need to develop and constantly improve.