8 Ways to Beat the Monday Blues

We get it. Not everyone jumps out of bed on Monday morning like an energiser bunny just dying to open their emails or join the commute. There’s lot’s to unpack about why you might be feeling like this, and I am not a licenced therapist…but at We Are BRAVE we do have some thoughts.

Here are eight simple ways to shoo away the Monday blues and focus on a positive week.

Start with a Positive Mindset

Begin your day by focusing on the good things ahead. Try not to dwell on the bad stuff, focus on what you can do to take control of the day, and the week ahead. Remind yourself of your goals and what you’re looking forward to achieving during the week. Even if it’s just that KitKat at 3pm with a cup of tea. Mmm.

Get into the Groove a Little Earlier

Now we are not advocating working all weekend (hell no!) BUT, hear us out here, taking some time on Sunday evening to plan your Monday schedule might just help. Having a clear roadmap of tasks and goals can alleviate stress and help you feel more prepared for the week ahead.

Get Your Body Moving A Bit

We all know that exercise is a powerful mood booster. Whether it’s a quick morning walk, a spritely jog to put the bins out, a yoga session, or hitting the gym, getting your body moving releases endorphins that can uplift your mood and energy levels.

Chunking The Day Up

Breaking up your day into smaller, more manageable chunks and scheduling short breaks in between tasks like meetings and focus time really helps. Stepping away from your desk for a few minutes can refresh your mind and prevent burnout.

Keep Hydrated and Eat Good Stuff

Another one we all know but might not do. When you feel a bit flat it’s tempting to reach for coffee, sugar and the obligatory chocolate digestives (we don’t make these rules). Instead try to fuel your body with nutritious foods and stay hydrated throughout the day. Even if you only do this on Monday it will you feel better and more focused.

Get Those Upbeat Tunes On The Go

The power of music is massively under rated. Create a feel-good playlist to listen to during your commute or while getting set up or even for while you’re working. Music has the power to elevate your mood and shift your perspective, making it easier to tackle the day ahead. Just remember to mute before you answer the phone!

Get Some Gratitude Practice In

Something a bit more left field but often a bit of reflection helps us see that there are things going on that we can be grateful for, even on a Monday! Take a moment to reflect on the things you are grateful for. Whether it’s a supportive colleague, a delicious cup of coffee, or a sunny day, acknowledging the positives in your life can cultivate a sense of gratitude and contentment.

Use A Reward System to Help You

It’s a an old trick but having something to look forward to at the end of the day, whether it’s indulging in your favourite hobby, spending time with loved ones, or simply unwinding with a good book or podcast can make all the difference. Maybe you make Monday into Movie Night? Perhaps Monday = Pizza. Anything to make the association a little better can work.

So if you can try incorporating even one of these simple practices into your Monday routine, you might just be able to banish those Monday blues and take control of the rest of the week.


Embracing the Sound of Your Unique Voice

Think about the voices we hear the most. Radio adverts, podcast intros, tv commercials, public transport announcements, political speeches….notice anything strange?

The world we live in is often dominated by preconceived notions of what is deemed to sound “professional”

Learning to embrace, accept and own the sound of our own voice is actually a powerful exploration of our own authenticity. 

Contrary to outdated beliefs, professionalism isn’t confined to a specific tone, accent, or vocal inflection – it’s about embracing the unique voice that defines each individual.

The traditional, and yet still widely used and accepted, narrative has perpetuated the idea that the well spoken, white, cis, male voice is the epitome of professionalism.  How is this still a thing in 2024? 

However, we’re sensing a push towards breaking away from this blinkered perspective and we are here for that and already playing our part. 

When we deliver SPEAK, our public speaking workshop, we’re helping to dismantle the biased perception surrounding how a ‘professional’ voice should sound. The diversity of voices we hear is a reflection of the rich tapestry of humanity, and every voice deserves recognition and respect. Encouraging individuals to own their voice involves empowering them to find confidence in their unique expressions, rather than conforming to a standardised myth of professionalism.

This is essential if we are to encourage people to be the best versions of themselves. True professionalism is about authenticity, and every voice, irrespective of its pitch or accent, carries the potential for impact and influence. We just need to lay down our own biases (yep, we all have them) and accept that the world is a diverse place with more than one way of sounding professional. 

Imagine a brave world where every voice is celebrated for its distinctiveness. 

Eton educated and white male? Super! ✅

Public school and broad Geordie female..? Class! ❤️

Sixth form dropout with an Italian inflection…? Bellisimo! 👏

By everyone working to remove the bias associated with vocal characteristics, we can create an environment that fosters inclusivity and helps people to build their authentic selves. This long overdue shift not only benefits individuals but amplifies the sounds of many diverse voices.

At We Are Brave we champion the idea that professionalism trumps stereotypes and promotes the authenticity of every voice. In doing so, we lead the way for a more inclusive, diverse, and unique sounding professional landscape.


The Rise of Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever felt like you’re about to be rumbled?

What are you even doing in this job…?

Imposter syndrome, 2 words we are starting to hear more and more about. Affecting men and women, across the globe, it’s a phenomenon where people doubt their abilities and fear being exposed as frauds despite plenty of evidence of their competence!

We think the pursuit of success, the pace of doing business, various cultures at work plus increasingly tough societal expectations are contributing to the rise of imposter syndrome. In this blog post, we’ll explore this issue and provide five effective strategies to overcome it.

Spotting the 4 P’s.

There are some clear signs that imposter syndrome could be affecting you, or those you work with. They are the 4 P’s. Perfectionism, Paralysis, People-Pleasing, and finally Procrastination.

Perfectionism might turn you into a crazy micro manager looking for the perfect piece of work.

Paralysis can make you freeze like a statue when you need to take action the most.

People-pleasing is the sure fire way to destroy and work life balance.

Lastly, (did you see what we did there) Procrastination can show up as being a busy fool doing all that ‘busy work’ so that you don’t have to get to the big stuff.

Strategies to Help

1. Recognise it and Label It!:
The first step in overcoming imposter syndrome is spotting it. Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings associated with your self-doubt. Understand these feelings are really common and do not accurately reflect your capabilities. By acknowledging imposter syndrome, you take the initial step towards conquering it. One step further is labelling it which helps your brain tag that feeling with what it really is. Anyone who has self awareness around their emotions will already understand the incredible power of slapping a label onto it!

2. Celebrate your Achievements:
Often, people suffering with imposter syndrome can downplay their achievements. We want you to take time to celebrate your successes, regardless of their scale. Maintain a record of your accomplishments and revisit them during moments of self-doubt. This practice helps build confidence and reinforces the reality of your capabilities.

3. Seek out Support and Mentorship:
Sharing your feelings with trusted colleagues, friends, or mentors can be instrumental in overcoming imposter syndrome. Discussing your experiences with someone who understands and values your abilities can provide valuable perspective. Seek mentorship to gain guidance from those who have faced similar challenges and successfully navigated through them. This could be in work, life or anywhere you see someone who you think might be able to help you.

4. Embrace Continuous Learning:
Imposter syndrome often stems from the fear of inadequacy. You can combat this fear by adopting a growth mindset. Embracing continuous learning and viewing challenges as opportunities for development. By seeing that personal growth involves facing unfamiliar situations, you can turn imposter syndrome into a catalyst for advancement.

5. Learn to Challenge Negative Thoughts:
Develop the habit of questioning negative thoughts associated with imposter syndrome. When self-doubt arises, challenge it by asking for evidence supporting those thoughts. Often, you’ll find that these thoughts lack a solid foundation. Replace your negative self-talk with positive affirmations and focus on your strengths and accomplishments.

Imposter syndrome is a more common experience than you think that is spreading across gender and business boundaries. By recognising, celebrating achievements, seeking support, embracing continuous learning, and challenging negative thoughts, people can overcome imposter syndrome and unlock their full potential. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and by talking about it you will have started the process of beating it.


Bring out the Unicorns

Are you tired of blending in with the crowd, like yet another plain doughnut in the box? Well, we think it’s time to unleash your inner unicorn and embrace your unique, dazzling brave self!

In a world where conforming and blending in seems to often reign supreme, we want to champion those who are BRAVE and dare to be different.

Have you been in the The Clone Zone?
We all see this in businesses all around the world. Cookie cutter versions of the same person in every organisation. Same style. Same suit. Same buzzwords (circle back anyone..😒?) and the same old outcomes. It’s boring. An army of corporate clones roaming the corridors of Dull & Duller Ltd.

You might be thinking, “But what if people judge me?” Well, let them! Remember, it’s not about being weird; it’s about being authentic. Using your brain to think first & think better. You might be surprised by peoples reactions.

We want you to be different, and say what you want to say in a calm and confident way. Learning to speak so that people listen and

Who wants to conform anyway?
Choosing to be different means making choices that reflect your unique personality, tastes, and quirks. It’s about proudly proclaiming, “I’m not going to do what everyone else is doing just because it’s the ‘in’ thing!”

Why Being a Unicorn is BRAVE.
Here’s the thing: it takes guts to be a unicorn. It requires bravery to defy societal expectations and march to your own unique rhythm. But, the rewards are sweet.

   1.    Authenticity: When you’re unapologetically you, people are drawn to your genuine spirit. Authenticity is magnetic.
   2.    Innovation: Unicorns are often the pioneers and innovators. They’re the ones who bring fresh ideas to the table because they’re not bound by the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. They can disagree and decide and still take people on the journey with them.
   3.    Personal Pride: The feeling of pride that comes from just being yourself, quirks and all, is unparalleled.

Bring Out Your Inner Unicorn 🦄
Life is too short to be just another black-and-white zebra in the very large herd. We want you to get your sparkle on instead. Daring to be different is a celebration of your uniqueness. It’s the path to authenticity, innovation, and the kind of pride that can only come from being the most honest version of you.

And that means you can be BRAVE.

Without people, we are nothing.

In the world of financial planning, where we are working with clients, helping them understand and achieve their goals, we are sometimes doing the people that work in our profession a disservice.

In my vast experience of working in different types of firms, with various teams and management styles, I’ve seen those that are happy stay with the same firm for years and show true dedication. I’ve also seen more people look at switching jobs as a challenge to be achieved because there are still a lot of bad practices – unfortunately, especially in small businesses.

I personally know the difficulties of managing a small business, but the key for business owners is not to take on everything yourself. Determine those non-negotiable things in the business, and looking after your people is one of those.

Rule #1: Look after your people

I’ve been part of financial planning teams for more than 10 years now, and this isn’t about the official team manager alone – great culture is created when everyone in a team looks after one another.

I’ve been on a number of sides within financial planning teams – a junior member of a team, a paraplanner, senior paraplanner, team manager, head of paraplanning, and now a business owner, managing the business and the paraplanning team. 

Now that I’m on the business ownership/management side, I believe even less that there’s a good “business” reason not to look after people. 

So often through the mentoring scheme that I created, we hear from administrators and paraplanners that they just aren’t being treated well. Exams and memberships not being paid for or supported by employers, no sick pay and a very limited amount of holiday are a small number of things that are grating on people in our profession at the moment.

As a business owner, I know all this comes at a cost, but if you truly want your business to be successful, looking after your people is key.

Obviously, a successful business looks different to each business owner – for me, I was to do some good in the world. We have engrained “happiness” as one of our key values because as much as I want to have a nice life for myself, I want it for others too. But we shouldn’t ignore that happier people are more productive and committed people. This is good for business! 

So, how do you look after your people?

The first and most important thing is for each team to have a specific person that is responsible for the people in that team. Responsible for their workload, productivity, wellbeing and general happiness at work. In my opinion, this person should be someone that understands the job those in the team are doing – if they have personal experience of the job, that’s even better, but having a good understanding of the actual tasks and skills involved, and the personality type of those doing the job, is important.

The other trait they need is to have an actual interest in other people’s well-being. For most people, they want to ensure they have an outlet, feel that they are being listened to and are progressing. For some, this looks like building skills or increasing pay; for others, it’s about continuing to balance work and life. Understanding how to relate to all of these needs is a tough job and should not be underestimated.

Having one-to-one meetings with every member of the team on a regular basis – in my opinion, monthly is best – is a good way to “look after” a team. This confidential and private space builds trust, but it does work on both sides. Team members also have a responsibility to show up and take charge of their own happiness and development. We talk about this a lot within mentoring, and the making your own development happen is powerful and something we can all do.

Rule #2: Treat your colleagues like your family

Although your team will never be your family (unless you are actually related), there’s no reason why they cannot be your friends. That said, not all of us need more friends, but let’s not forget that as social beings, the connection between us is needed for us to thrive. Anyone who has read around financial well-being will understand that all the data and research leads us to conclude that living and happiness is about human connection.

Rule #3: Caring about others costs nothing

Financially, that is true, although there is an emotional cost, which we shouldn’t ignore. We know that not everyone has a deep, caring nature, although it is true that, generally, humans are caring. How does this show up in a team? There is no job role that includes “caring” as a responsibility within our profession; however, with the right culture, this is part and parcel of everyone in the team. Caring about others touches so many parts of our professional lives, from booking a holiday or time off work, dealing with our workloads or challenging others’ opinions.

Finally, I will say that looking after people should always be a work in progress. Humans are complex beings with needs that constantly change over time due to life events, hormones, health, as well as social change, and keeping up with how all these things can affect people showing up at work is a tough job.

Keeping an open mind and continually learning is a great way to look after people. 

Sian Davies Cole


The Hidden Cost of Avoiding Conflict: Unleashing ‘Underlying Tension’

Wanting to avoid conflict is a completely natural part of human interaction. Trust us, there are only a select few who begin each day with the burning desire to run into some conflict along the way! 

It’s perfectly normal to just want the easy life, and in essence, look for the quietest and most peaceful option. 

For many of us, avoiding conflict can be damaging to our roles and self esteem at work (and in our personal lives too) but, and here’s a terrible thought you’ll probably wish you never read. 

But, what if, by avoiding the very thing you fear the most, you might just unleash a beast you like even less…

‘Underlying Tension’ 😱

When we choose to sidestep a conflict, we may experience feeling of immediate relief and even success! But, if you’ve really just created tension by ‘sweeping it under the rug’ you risk allowing it to fester beneath the surface until it’s ready to make things a whole lot worse. 

Here’s a few reasons why avoiding conflict can lead to the unleashing of underlying tension:

Suppressed emotions

When we dodge a confrontation, we suppress our feelings and emotions. This suppression can create a sense of unease, which builds over time, like a pressure cooker ready to explode.

You’re not speaking up

Conflict often arises from miscommunication or misunderstandings. By avoiding the issue, we miss an opportunity to clarify and rectify the situation, by speaking up and avoiding assumptions and misconceptions to thrive.

Unresolved Issues

Unaddressed conflicts result in unresolved problems. These problems won’t disappear on their own; they often persist and potentially worsen, causing long-term damage to the relationship or situation. 

Bye bye Trust

When people avoid conflict repeatedly, trust can slowly disappear. Others may perceive them as insincere or uncommitted to resolving issues, leading to a breakdown in trust and rapport. It’s hard to work with people you don’t trust. 

Conflict Incoming!

The longer a conflict is left unaddressed, the more it can escalate. As the tension builds it feeds the initial conflict until they’re both ready to create the perfect storm. What was once a small disagreement may grow into a substantial issue that’s even harder to tackle.

So, what do We Are BRAVE suggest we can we do to avoid the accumulation of underlying tension while addressing conflict effectively?

Open Communication

Engage in open, honest, and respectful communication when conflicts arise. Speak Up and discuss your concerns and listen actively to the other person’s perspective.

Right Time and Place

Select a good time and a private setting for discussing conflicts wherever you can. An audience often escalates an issue and encourages poor behaviours. Always try to stop, think and then respond instead of react. 

Disagree Well

Disagreeing with someone doesn’t have to mean you dislike them! Use our tactics to help you move forward in a mature and collaborative way. If a conflict seems impossible to resolve on your own, consider involving a neutral third party, such as a mediator or HR, to help facilitate the conversation.

Decide on Solutions

Instead of dwelling on the problem, work together to decide on viable solutions. This shifts the focus from blame to resolution.

Think about your thinking

Reflect on each conflict as an opportunity for personal growth and relationship improvement. Learn from your experiences to prevent recurring issues. 

We think with a little help from us you can master the art of disagreement, calm conflict and collaborate effectively with your colleagues. It all starts with being BRAVE. 


Free Personal Development Plan

Everyone needs a plan.

Regardless whether your goal is world domination, smashing the annual bonus scheme or something more personal, we believe that when you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, you are way more likely to get stuff done.

Research has shown that people who write down their goals are 42 percent more likely to achieve them than those who don’t.

Having something as simple as a basic Personal Development Plan (aka the PDP) can often be the start of something brilliant.

You can download a simple template from us here. It’s amendable if you’d like to make it a little more ‘you’.

Here’s 5 Tips to Get You Started.

1. Think about the work you’ve already done

Before you get started on what it is that you want to achieve, spend some time thinking about your progress over the last 12 months. This will help you get a picture of what’s going well and any areas that you can improve on, it will also help you to recognise the strengths and weaknesses in your skillset.

2. Write a list of your strengths and weaknesses

Your strengths are a mixture of your talents, knowledge and skills. By getting an idea of what your strengths are, you’ll be able to identify activities where you can add value. And by recognising your weaknesses, you can start to get involved in work that allows you to develop gaps in your skills and knowledge.

3. Set some goals

Goals can be anything from short-term to long-term, big or small. Whatever you decide you want to work towards, the key thing is to make sure that you’re setting goals based on what you want to achieve, not what you think your manager would like to see. Once you’ve set your goals, consider prioritising them – and try not to tackle too many at once.

4. Get SMART

Now that you have an understanding of what you want to achieve, it’s time to set some concrete actions. Think about what you’re working towards and then work backwards from there, outlining the steps you’ll need to take. It’s also important that the actions you set for yourself are clear, measurable and obtainable. A great way to make sure of this is to follow the SMART method: keep them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timed.

5. Make time for updates

For your PDP to work, you need to update it regularly. Setting a weekly reminder in your calendar is a great way to get yourself into the habit of spending time reviewing your progress and updating the areas of your PDP that you’ve been working on.

Starting a Self-Compassion Revolution

First things first. We’re not therapists or experts, just throwing our opinions out there!

This is something that’s close to our hearts so we’re choosing to gently dip our toe into the wonderful world of self-compassion, where being brave & showing kindness meets up with self-improvement and might just spark a revolution of feel-good vibes with those who read it. 

So, sit back, unclench your jaw, take some deeper breaths and drop those shoulders for a few minutes. Let’s explore why showing ourselves some tender loving care is not only important but also comes with some cool benefits too.

Picture this. We’ve all done it in our own way. A friend is in need and reaches out to you. Naturally, you offer them a listening ear, a supportive shoulder, and sprinkle your words with empathy and kindness. Seems like a no-brainer right..? Isn’t this what everyone does?

Yep! Most of us are brilliant at dishing out compassion to others. Our hearts swell and those soothing words just trip off the tongue.

Then, something strange happens. You suddenly need a little compassion yourself, for whatever the reason, and those emotions, skills and words just disappear!

It’s like the worlds best magic trick, ‘roll up, roll up and witness the incredible Disappearing Compassion’

We’re quick to extend compassion to others, but when it comes to ourselves, we can become self-critical ninjas. It’s like we’ve entered a secret society where guilt, shame, harsh words and self-judgment reign supreme. We say things to ourselves that we would surely never say to anyone who needed our help. What the hell is going on? 

At We Are BRAVE we want to try to flip that internal mean spirited script and instead embrace a Self-Compassion Revolution!

Something most of us tend to forget is that we’re all human, and that means making mistakes is part of the deal. 

Instead of berating ourselves with a never-ending loop of negative self-talk, let’s treat ourselves like a best friend. Be gentle, kind, offer a helping hand, and reassure yourself that it’s all part of life. We are not perfect. We will always make mistakes.

Showing self-compassion doesn’t mean you’re letting yourself off the hook or settling for less. It’s about acknowledging your flaws, embracing your imperfections, and understanding that you deserve a little bit of love and understanding, just as much as the next person. Simple eh..?

So let’s talk about the benefits of self-compassion. When you treat yourself with compassion, you’re giving your mind and body the permission to relax and heal. 

Stress levels decrease, and the weight of self-judgment slowly lifts from your shoulders.

As an added bonus, self-compassion strengthens your resilience. Much as we hate to quote Roman Keating, life really is an unpredictable rollercoaster, and when you freefall, which you inevitably will, self-compassion acts as a cushion that helps you bounce back stronger. 

We want you to create an inner cheerleader that’s always on your side, reminding you that you have what it takes to conquer any challenge that comes your way.

We want to leave you with a personal challenge.

The language we use when we talk to ourselves is incredibly important and the words we choose can have a lasting legacy. We challenge you to choose the harshest word you say to yourself (we all have one) and simply start to soften it a little each time you say it. Dial down the inner mean girl and turbo-boost the self compassion revolution. ❤️

Remember, any Self-Compassion Revolution starts inside each and every one of us. Let’s try harder to be brave & kind, gentle and supportive and spread those good vibes to the people around us.

8 Ways to Fail at being BRAVE

Life can be really hard. We get it. So why bother..?

The pressure is always on, the workload can feel relentless and then on top of that you need to try and be BRAVE? Who has the time? 

We share so much helpful content with you about how to be BRAVE that we realised we’ve made a glaring omission! 

What if you just want to get on with it in your own way and not use our guiding principles? 😳 

Behold, just for you, here’s 8 Ways to Fail at being BRAVE. 

Rush into your decisions

Work at speed, keep up that pace at all times, and never slow down before thinking. Definitely do not take time to write anything down! There’s no time! Your brain will fill in the gaps and find the clarity you need from somewhere. When it comes to conversations, don’t take the time to think your answer through, just shoot from the hip! 

Speak quickly, without thought, and don’t worry about backing it up. 

As you jump from a meeting, to a debate, to a call and then onto the next zoom, just say whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about it, who even pays attention anyway? An even easier way is to develop your inner parrot! Take what someone else says, add a little twist of your own and repeat it. Easy win all day long! If anyone challenges you, just throw the question back at them and swiftly change the topic. No-one will even remember this next week!

Trust your gut, and decide quickly, especially about other people!

Where there are important decisions to be made, it’s important to keep it high level, don’t get into the detail. The quicker you decide the faster this meeting needs! If someone challenges you or your thoughts then they’re clearly jealous and you can secretly plot their downfall at a later stage. If it’s gets a bit personal, so be it, they started it after all. 

Don’t give your thinking any extra thought , you know you’re pretty much always right  

Life is too busy for second guessing right? Once you have answered a question or made your decision then save time and move the hell on! There’s no need to over analyse and reflect over what you said or why, it’s a waste of time. Why? Your brain cleverly gets used to the way you work and think and eventually introduces biases and shortcuts to get you quickly to the same type of decisions over and over again. Genius! 

Learn to get your own way when you need to.  

This one’s all about learning to disagree and win at all costs. If someone disagrees with you then you need to nip it in the bud. Make a stand and understand that this person clearly dislikes you, so there’s no relationship to lose. It’s important that in a disagreement you do not fail, you must make sure to win, no matter how it reflects on you because what’s important is not failing.

Make the easy (or even first) decision, saving you time and effort. 

Decision making can swallow up so much time in meetings. A simple way to expedite the process is to use those helpful brain shortcuts we talked about earlier and just make the first, or the easiest, decision that comes to mind. Another brilliant way to sidestep decision making completely is to simply agree with whoever is the loudest, or highest paid person in the room. This way nothing sticks to you when it goes wrong. Perfect!  

When debating, focus on the person not the topic!

When it comes to debating there’s a sure fire way to get what you need, or at the very least be disruptive and hurry the meeting along. Flip the focus from whatever the topic is, and instead make it about the person who is talking. This is so much easier! You don’t need to agree, or disagree with the topic, especially if you don’t really understand it. Just pick holes in the person, the way they’re debating, the words they use and try to get them to defend their ideas. Before you know it you’ll have made it into a personal dig at the person whilst simultaneously dodging having to make any kind of decision. 

Finally, and this one is truly brilliant when it comes to really failing at being BRAVE. 

No decision = no progress = no work.

At the end of any meeting or debate there’s that moment where a decision just needs to be made. People start to become uncertain or even fear the decision they’re about to make. They need help. The best thing to do is wrap up the meeting asap and take the pressure off. Give people a break from making decisions. The added benefit to this is that now nothing will get agreed on, therefore there’s no follow up work to be done and it will probably just get shelved or tabled for a later discussion. Bonus! 

If you’ve read this blog and identified any of the descriptions or behaviours in your own worlds then you might need to get in touch with us. We can help you and your teams to not fail at being BRAVE and instead learn that all progress starts with a BRAVE decision. 

If, however, you’re truly determined to fail, we’ve even created a Downloadable Fail Checklist to help you Fail Better

You can download it here:

Navigating Cross-Cultural Communication

Guest Blog by Juliana Nogueira Mathew.

Where are you from? How do you greet each person when you arrive at social or work gatherings? Air Kiss on the cheek? Bow? Shake hands? What language do you speak?

Question for later…What does the thumbs-up gesture mean in your country? 

With technology facilitating instant connections all over the world and workplaces increasing diversity, interactions of people from different backgrounds have enabled the exchange of culturally different customs, norms, perspectives and communication styles. 

However, the lack of good communication can result in misunderstandings and even conflicts.  So, to enhance effectiveness in communication between cultures, improve mutual understanding and create a safe space for people to explore their differences, I brought three “whats” we can ask ourselves which can help us navigate through this intercultural journey: 

1. What is my communication style?

Who has never been in a situation where we felt left out for not quite understanding what was being said? Or got upset with a colleague for the way they said something or acted towards you? Or when we accidentally sent “the wrong message”, leaving the other person feeling extremely uncomfortable? 

Communication involves much more than the language we speak and how well we speak it. People’s language fluency has less importance in communication than we think. 

It’s always good to remember that life is not like a school test where you will be marked for every mistake you make (thankfully) – I tell myself this every time I use the wrong preposition in English (I still have trouble with that).

The objective of communication is to create meaning across different contexts through messages which we encode (when we send them) and decode (when we receive and interpret them). So, in cross-cultural communication, the coded information present in one culture might include a variety of specific meanings which might confuse or even upset another.

Non-verbal elements such as body language and differences in communication styles play an essential role in dictating how messages are delivered and help the receiver understand the message sent. However, it can differ a lot depending on the individual our group’s cultural background.  

Some examples of variations in communications styles between cultures, include: 

  • Directness 
  • Eye contact 
  • Tone, volume and speed of speech 
  • Emotional expressiveness 
  • Self-disclosure 
  • Formality

According to Think Cultural Health, “loud and expressive speech is often more common in African American, Caribbean, Latino, an Arab cultures” – as a Latina myself, I frequently see loud and expressive speech often happening over here – and “direct eye contact is considered rude in some Asian cultures”. Did you know that in some cultures smiling is seen as a diplomatic mechanism to facilitate relationships, while in others, it can be considered inappropriate (like when greeting a stranger). So interesting, hey?

Of course, there are always exceptions to any norms and when it comes to culture, it is no different. However, understanding how cultural patterns can influence how we express ourselves, even if unconsciously, it can help us understand more about our own unique communication styles and others people’s, improving our personal and professional cross-cultural relationships. 

2. What are my perspectives?

 We all have our own unique and different perceptions of the world, which are shaped not only by our cultural background, but by a combination of elements such as the way our brain processes information, our values, our emotions, our expectations and experiences throughout life.  

We all want to be in healthy and positive environments where we feel respected, listened to, and confident expressing ourselves, no matter where we are from. However, this sense of discomfort can sometimes derive from our own fear of not belonging or fitting in, and not from others. It’s all about our perspective on things.

In 2017, when I moved out of my birth country, Brazil, for the first time to Australia, I was having mixed feelings, from being extremely excited with this new challenge to silently panicking with the idea of facing the unknown. Over the years, I studied and worked in international organisations and met people from different parts of the world. I was also asked a few times about soccer – I think people expect me to love soccer just because I am from Brazil, which is not necessarily always the case – lucky for them I actually do. 

At the beginning I remember often feeling very self-conscious about my communication style and my ability to understand others (especially when they would use their unique Australian slangs). I would constantly be thinking if I was speaking English well enough, if the way I was saying things could give people the wrong impressions (like when I can be quite “expressive” when I talk and when I tend to go for big hugs even if I just met someone), or if people would be judging me because of my accent. What made me change perspectives was when I started listening more to people when they would come to me and tell me that I communicated very well (even though in my mind I didn’t). I needed to “get out of my own head”.

The biggest challenges people might face when communicating with people from different cultures is expressing themselves using their own communication style while having social awareness and paying attention to the impact that the way we communicate might have on others.

Do not let the fear of the unknown or people’s judgment interfere in how you show your unique self.

3. What can I do to get better?

Over time, I started building skills that would help me better understand about myself and what is (actually) essential in any good communication.

Self-awareness, adaptability, empathy, curiosity and active listening are a few of the (very important) skills involved not only in intercultural communication, but in life.  

Building these skills might not be easy at the start, but it is all about practice. Remembering that once they become part of how we interact with others, it can bring plenty of benefits to us individually or to the groups we are part of.  Problem-solving, creativity, innovation, decision-making and conflict resolution are just a few of them.  

Here are a few tips on how get better at communicating cross-culturally: 

  • REFLECT about your own biases,
  • ADAPT your communicate style when needed (be humble),
  • BE CLEAR of your objective and intention, 
  • FOCUS on the other person (not on yourself), 
  • LISTEN to the other person carefully, 
  • BE OPEN to different perspectives,
  • SHOW empathy (try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes) 
  • BE KIND. 

Ah, and the most important thing: don’t be afraid to be yourself. In the end, it doesn’t matter where we are from, what we experienced in life or how we see the world. We are all humans with unique backgrounds and stories that have the ability and opportunity to learn from others but also to enrich people’s lives with our own unique perspectives.  

Communication and Leadership

Intercultural communication can be hard and promoting mutual understanding requires constant work. Reflecting about our own perspectives, communication styles and what makes us unique, understanding more about other cultures as well as the reason behind other people’s behaviours and working on building key skills, will help us become better communicators and better leaders. 

By putting effort into communicating more effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds, we will be not only contributing to our own personal and professional growth but will also be facilitating safe spaces where effective intercultural communication is navigated with sensitivity, clarity and respect.

So, let’s get out of our comfort zones and acknowledge (and kick out) our biases to explore the world of possibilities that cross-cultural communication can provide – and the best thing: we can do this in the comfort of our homes.

Fun Fact! If you were curious about the thumbs-up gesture meanings, for most countries, it can be a sign of approval, but in others, (such as some parts of the Middle East), it has a very bad meaning, similar to showing your middle finger. Who knew…

Juliana Nogueira Mathew

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