Азы ротарианской коммуникации

Наш большой друг Ким Буридел (Kim Bauriedel) написал очень хорошую статью с рекомендациями, как вести эффективную коммуникацию с иностранцами. Привожу ее здесь без перевода:

In developing a successful international project there are a variety of things which must be discussed and decided upon. One of these is the decision as to who the primary international partner will be.

Although partners can be found at Rotary conventions and meetings, on the Rotary website, referrals from other Rotarians and other similar events, I have found that these do not always work out well. I think that the partners need to have some relationship that exists beyond the project. By this I generally mean that the partners have shared part of their lives together in some meaningful way. The partners have stayed in the home of each other. They have shared meals with each other. They have a face that each knows. There has been opportunities to discuss things which are not Rotary related. This kind of interaction allows for a bonding to occur.

Over the years I have tried to establish partnerships on projects in different counties, but without the bond of people, they have failed. If over the years, had I not returned to Siberia or Siberians come to my home, I do not think our relationship would have gone on this long (15 years).

Having a relationship allows the partners to evaluate each other’s personality, skills, work ethic, priorities etc. It gives the partners a chance to learn about each other’s culture and to use that information to adjust the work methods. This provides an opportunity to decide whether a particular person will be a suitable partner.

Partners are generally reliable, consistent, polite, efficient, accurate, honest, friendly, helpful, concerned, knowledgeable about Rotary, prompt, responsible, precise or clear in writing.

Another very important part of the process is communication. Although we have standard mail, social media, Skype etc, in accuallity, email will be used most often in communicating internationally. Many of us do not use social media, because of privacy concerns and also that much of what we write and, this is particularly true about grants and projects, is mostly private information. It is better not risking these discussions in a too public manner.

There are some difficulties with email that we all encounter. Some messages we send do not go to where we think they should either because we made a mistake in the address or the receiver did not recognize it as a “good” message. We all get a lot of spam or junk message which sometimes prevent us from seeing other messages in a timely fashion.

Some things which might help.

I try to put “Rotary” as the first word of any message that is going to a Rotarian regardless of what the message is about. I ask people writing to me, particularly for the first time, to use that word in their subject line as it helps me notice their message, should it go to the spam folder. I realize that email programs have symbols to rate importance of messages, but I think few of us pay any attention to them. Using a “code” like Rotary seems to work better.

Even with our “good” messages, there are several types. Some are newsletters, blogs, and business advertising, which we have requested. Some are broadcast messages that go to large number of recipients; most of these do not require an answer. An example is a broadcast inviting people to go to the International convention. A few will be interested and they will answer; but for the rest of us that message is only information and would be only briefly looked at. Then there are specific messages which are sent to a very limited number of people and lastly individual messages.

For individual messages, I would recommend acknowledging the receipt within 24 hours. It can be as simple as writing “OK” or “Got it”. This lets the sender know the message was received which reduces their anxiety about the receipt on the part of the sender. This works better than using the automatic “Read Mail” option that programs have, as people can disable that feature.

Sometimes a message has a question in it. If it can be easily answered, the answer should be sent within 24-48 hours. If it is going to take longer, then I would suggest that a brief message be sent back to the sender giving them an idea of when a more definitive answer will be sent. An example, “Got your message. Must research answer or out town for 2 weeks. Will answer more fully by X date. Thank you”. Then try to meet your commitment.

Messages which go to a small number of people are somewhat more difficult to deal with. Some are purely informational, but sometimes the sender does not know who the most correct person is that should be dealing with the message. In those cases, the message usually has a greeting to a specific group like “District?? Youth Exchange Committee.” This should be an alert that the sender does not know who the chair is. The message may have a specific question in it and the sender does not know who can best answer it. For these kinds of messages, someone should write the sender and tell the sender that their message was received and that a specific person is responsible or that the question will be discussed by the group and an answer will be formulated. Usually the most senior person among the recipients will write the acknowledgement message. So if a message went to several people on the Youth Exchange Committee, then the Chair should identify themselves, as well as telling the sender who else is actually on the committee. Then if there is someone else who handles correspondence that should be told to the sender too. It does not help the sender, if no one answers. It also will usually result in more people receiving similar messages, rather than a more specific message going to one person.

Try to write as precisely as you can. Use specific dates or numbers when appropriate. Acknowledge deadlines. Acknowledge when you will have personal issues which may delay things. Lack of preciseness in messages will often lead to more questions.

No one expects perfection, but understanding problems and what issues other people are dealing with allows a partner to tailor their work to the situation. Sharing problems is not a sign of weakness or incompetence. Partners can sometimes help solve them.

For a variety of reasons it is also good to try to have a backup person in the partnership through which communication can flow, in case the primary contact is not available. In this situation the backup should contact the primary whenever a message is received, to be sure that the sender’s question is appropriately taken care of.

When a sender asks question try not to be offended or assume that the question is a challenge or an attempt to irritate the recipient. Most of the time the sender was other people they are talking to in the background and the sender needs to fully understand the situation. Many times there is a difference in experience in writing grants. There is a skill set in grant writing. How one represents the project and the necessary work, can make the difference as to whether the grant will be approved or not. A partner asking the question may help that situation.

If you decide not to work with a partner on a particular project, let the partner know this. Do not just stop writing. One, it is insulting. It is like walking away from someone in the middle of a conversation. Two, you also lose the opportunity to thank them for what effort they have thus far expended and three, you lose the opportunity to invite them to help on some future project. We all realize that not every partnership works, but it is important to keep the relation viable for the future. I have many times written to tell people that we cannot help on a particular project, but let’s try again next year for a different project. Communication stays open and most of the time a new project results.

Cultural differences also have to be taken into account. Americans tend to respect deadlines. We tend to be detail orientated; we tend to be precise in our writing. Communication needs to take those differences into account. Do not be afraid to share your expectations with those that communicate with you. Cultural differences are not always obvious. If something is written and it is not understood, ask the sender to write it in another way which might be clearer. That is the right thing to do, rather than struggle with a misunderstanding.

Difficulties with translations are problematic. Unfortunately Rotary tends to use English. Most Americans do not have access to other languages and they themselves only use English. It has been my experience that most communities in D2225 have students who wish to learn English and can translate many things. There are other people who know English in D 2225. They should be sought out and invited to join Rotary, with the idea that their translation skill will be their prime contribution to the organization. In partnerships the translation issue should be discussed and there should be an understanding as to which language will be used. In my case, I use Google Translate to read Russian, but only write in English. If it is something very important, I have several friends around the world that will do an occasional translation for me, but as they have other business I cannot ask them to translate everything. I wish there was an easier way to deal with this and I wish, we Americans, had better foreign language skills. Nevertheless, understanding the language limitations is very important.

In establishing a communication link sometimes a third party introduction is useful. By this I mean that if I needed to write to the chair of D2225 Foundation and I did not know that person, but I do know your DG and he knows the chair. I could ask him to introduce us. He would write a message to the chair and copy it to me. The message tells the chair who I am and the message includes all three email addresses. Once I receive the message I can reply all. Likewise the chair sends a “reply all” message. Then we all check to see if all of the messages were received. If they are received and acknowledged then we all have valid emails and further discussion can take place without the DG. This can be used in many situations.

Another nice thing to do when first communicating with someone who you have not personally met face to face, is to exchange a brief biography and photo. This helps make the relationship which is important for successful projects. Have things that help make the bond between partners makes everything real and not so much virtual.

In Summary,

  • Pick partners that you can work with
  • Develop a relationship beyond the project, exchange biographies and photos
  • Thank people frequently and invite future cooperation
  • Use Rotary in the subject
  • Make sure messages going to a small group of people are answered by someone, especially if there is a question asked in the message
  • Use third party introductions
  • Try to have a backup person for receiving messages
  • Do not fear questions, either in asking or receiving
  • Acknowledge receipt of messages
  • Define when answers to questions will be ready and who will answer
  • When problems arise, do not fear sharing that information with partners; they can help
  • Distinguish between broadcast/information messages and those that need attention
  • Write in a precise manner with minimal vagueness
  • Establish a plan to deal with translations
  • Learn about cultural differences and how those affect the message exchange

In conclusion, treat email as you would a face to face conversation. Treat your partners like you would a friend. Be willing to share things in your life, which have nothing to do with Rotary or projects. Do what you can to keep the communication relationships functioning. Having a face to associate with a partner helps.

Yours in Rotary and Friendship

Kim Bauriedel, MD

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