My son has an allergy, and my wife and I both agree that we should treat him. But talking about this, in our kitchen, reminded me of how differently people absorb facts based on their background. I am German and my wife is Russian.
“I agree that we should do it. But he is so afraid of needles. I feel sorry for the little guy”, I told my wife, while she was washing the dishes.
She wasn’t worried: “It helped my brother a lot and it’s only one shot”, she said and handed me the plate she cleaned.
I put the plate in the cupboard and then – because I know how my wife’s mind works – asked: “Is it really just one time?”
“Of course. You get one treatment”, she replied and rolled her eyes. She probably thought: “Why does he have to probe everything?” Then she continued: “You get one shot. And then the second and third treatment a few weeks later. ”
“Ah.” I had a feeling about this. “So, it is not really one shot – it is three, right? That will be hard for him. I wonder if we can convince him to go back there, when he understands that they will hurt him with a needle.” And then I asked again: “It is three shots in total, right?”
“Five”, my wonderful life partner answered, letting fresh water run over a bunch of spoons that she had cleaned: “Each treatment is a setting of five injections.”
I sighed: “So, it is three treatments with five shots each. Meaning: 15 injections in total?”
She answered: “Yes, that’s what I said. One treatment at a time.”
I have been happily married for ten years. So, I said nothing and just put away the rest of the dishes.
My wife is one of the smartest people I know. Probably smarter than me. And I would never dare to make fun of her. (She is reading over my shoulder.)
So, let me explain how we can come to so different conclusions. After all – facts should be the same for everyone, right?
Big picture vs. strategy
The facts are the same. But the camera lens that we use are different. My wife uses a wide-angle lens. She sees the whole picture. As a Russian she knows that she can figure out the details along the way.
As a German, I am good at strategy. So, I use the wide-angle lens as my starting point. But then I zoom in. I want to know all the details and how they are connected. It’s important to me, because like many Germans I have a need to reduce uncertainty. I want to be able to plan the whole “thing” in advance – and then execute it flawlessly.
That’s an emotional need that you will find in many German managers. When you want your “sales pitch” for a job to resonate with employers in Germany: You need to adjust your presentation to this emotional need.
I encourage you to think hard about the camera perspective, when you share a fact, information or a story. How many details does my listener need, in order to feel satisfied?
Avoid statements like “I will figure it out” or “I have a go-get attitude”. Never lie. (Most managers are competent enough in their job. They can smell bullshit.) Be concrete and be specific.
Culture matters. Perception matters. If you choose to share your expertise in a way that feels natural to German employers, they will feel comfortable with your facts – and comfortable with you.
About Chris Pyak
Chris Pyak is the Author of “How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans“. The managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH has worked in four different cultures and lived in five different countries.
Chris returned to Germany in 2011. His mission: Bring the Immigrant Spirit to his home country. Chris introduces international professionals to employers in Germany.