What do you do when you donât know the language or customs? Thatâs when your EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, comes in handy.
On my recent tour to Russia, the people in large cities (Moscow, Saint Petersburg) knew English, but not in the small villages (Yaroslavl, Uglich).
I thought Iâd pick up Russian quickly, but I didnât for several reasons:
1. Jet Lag turns your thinking brain (neocortex) to mush
2. You canât âpictureâ the words because the Russian alphabet is Cyrillic; i.e., Catherine the Greatâs initial is âEâ because in Russian, itâs Ecaterina.
3. Russianâs not a âRomance languageâ. The sounds and cadence arenât familiar. They have sounds that donât exist in English.
4. Russian people are courteous and quietly charming, but theyâre conscientious workers who stay focused. Theyâd also rather improve their English than teach you Russian.
5. Theyâre reserved in public so you donât hear a lot of words. When I said, âGood morningâ in Russian, Iâd get back, âGood morning.â Silence.
RELY ON YOUR NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION.
One thing I did was exaggerate my expression (pleading) and gestures (2 fingers for $2), and put some warmth in my eyes. Fear is contagious; so is trust. Their expressions, when revealed, were quite recognizable, i.e., a shrug, breaking eye-contact when theyâve made their last offer.
In museums such as the Hermitage or the Armory, older women sit in a chair in each room. Itâs their job to make sure no one touches anything.
When the Ugly American (Paul) in our tour group touched a curtain in Peterhof, the Russian grandmother (babushka) sprang to her feet with a thud, clapped her hands twice, loudly, then advanced toward Paul shaking her finger and barking Russian. We didnât need to understand the words.
But what did this mean in this country? Was Paul going to Siberia? How could we find out?
One of the things our mother does is interpret for us. A well-known experiment involves researchers placing a baby on a Plexiglas shield resting across a high table. When the baby crawls to the edge of the visual drop, heâs. It feels solid but looks like a precipice. So he looks over to his Mom to find out what heâs supposed to do, which mean finding out how heâs supposed to feel. If she looks happy, he proceeds. If she looks scared, he stops.
So we turned to Leo, our Russian guide, to see how serious this was. Leo was laughing and relaxed. A young man with much EQ, he quickly put his arm around the Russian women, turning her away and soothing her. How? Babushkas all over the world are soft on young men.
CATCHING ON QUICK IS ANOTHER EQ COMPETENCY
â We were warned about the gypsies â such faces, such gestures. Ann, who thought they were âsweetâ and didnât listen, got pickpocketed.
â When you accept the flowers the youths give you in the villages, it isnât a gift. They will haunt you with looks until you fork over some money.
â Youâll quickly see the shopkeepers expect to bargain. They name a price and then pause, expectantly.
â How susceptible are you to âbeautiful ladyâ? Vendors everywhere know those words in English.
â Who can resist a child? Hereâs Katya hustling my sister - http://www.theintrovertzcoach.com/islands4.html at Svir Stroy.
â Itâs officially illegal for Russians to accept American dollars. Quickly youâll learn they all do. Just as long as you donât ask. (It isnât illegal to give dollars.)
â Customs officials worldwide have a crummy job. A smile goes a long way with them.
WHATâS THE CUSTOM?
You never know. A street vendor in Saint Petersburg caught my eye and the following took place, without any words. I âaskedâ if I could take his photo. He was flattered. I then offered him $2. He shook his head no, no. I pushed the bills onto his tray of matroyshkas. Winsomely, he pocketed the $2, then handed me a doll and hugged me.
TELLTALE SIGNS OF REAL LIFE
Whatâs the condition of the children, the dogs, and the seniors?
The children were all healthy, tall, muscular and well-dressed. ( http://www.theintrovertzcoach.com/Moscow%20Park%20girl%20playing%203.jpg ). I never saw a parent disciplining a child, or any need for it. Evidently their whole life they hold their motherâs hand when walking-like up to age 60.
Check out the playground at Moscowâs North Terminal Park ( http://www.theintrovertzcoach.com/Moscow%20Park%20playground%20for%20kid... ) and see how much they care about their kids.
The Babushkas were cheerful and healthy looking (http://www.webstrategies.cc/nancy_and_babushka.jpg ).
Youâve never seen such shiny-coated, healthy, well-fed dogs and cats.
That means, in French, fooling the eyeâanother reality check. There were two incidents of tromp lâoeil Iâll mention.
First, look at this Moscow apartment building: http://www.theintrovertzcoach.com/Moascow%20apartment%20building.jpg . Looks like a slum tenement, doesnât it? âNo,â laughed our guide, Toma. âWe donât take care of the outside of buildings here. There are luxury apartments in there 2200 sq. ft.â
Second, here is Catherineâs Palace ( http://www.hum.utah.edu/languages/images/photos/rusphoto32.jpg ). When you arrive in Moscow, you think the buildings are huge. They are huge, but thereâs something else going on, because youâve seen huge buildings before. What they do is build with standard-sized bricks, then plaster over them, them paint them with marks as if they were made of bricks 4x the standard size. Perception warp!
Hereâs an incident that called for some quick EQ. We were walking in Moscowâs Harbor Park where there were lots of families. I became enchanted with a little girl of about 2, with curls all over her head, and before I knew it, she ran to me, jumped into my arms and gave me a hug and a kiss. Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eyes I could see two agitated parents closing in on me from either side.
This is reptilian brain -- fear of strangers, protecting your children, territory. Look out!
What would you do? Read more about this and other anecdotes in my eBook, âUsing Your Emotional Intelligence When Traveling Abroad.â ( http://www.webstrategies.cc/ebooklibrary.html )
EQ is truly a universal language!
Â©Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Offering emotional intelligence coaching to improve every area of your life. EQ coach training and certification ( http://www.eqcoach.net ). Business solutions for avoiding needless litigation ( http://www.webstrategies.cc/eit.htm). Isnât it time you got it all figured out? Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE ezine.