I am helping at a leadership workshop in Europe.

 

The participants, 32 employees of my client organization who have flown in from 14 countries around the world, have a WhatsApp Group to keep in touch informally during their program journey.

 

Last night someone shared the attached image.

 

It’s funny, of course, and was offered in that spirit – but one of the group (a non-British person) came to me later and said, ‘But it’s true, isn’t it, David? How do I know when a British person is just being polite, or is meaning no when they say yes, or is being sarcastic? Can you share any tips?’

 

I said: You could always ask them. Because that’s true.

 

We could say ‘Hey, I know you Brits have a reputation about joking a lot, but I’d really like to be sure – how are you really feeling about my proposal?’

 

But many of us would prepare to worry and wonder and guess and imagine what other people are thinking. We could hear what someone said and think ‘Hmm, but I wonder what their real agenda is?’ Or we could compare what they said to what we know about their MBTI profile and think ‘Ah, well, given they are a ISTJ, or an ESPN, what they are probably really thinking …[insert imagined response]!’

 

Or we could just cut through that mental chatter and pseudo-analysis, and ask. If we value what other people are thinking and feeling – which should matter if we are going to ask them to collaborate with us – then we should pay them the respect of allowing them to articulate their thoughts and emotions for themselves.