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The Disciplined Listening Method with Michael Reddington, President of InQuasive

Michael Reddington

How do you get people to reveal their true intentions and their true motivations during sales negotiations, interviews, or even interrogations? Michael Reddington, the CEO of InQuasive, has worked in over 50 countries teaching these techniques. Ultimately, he says, it is about saving face, establishing credibility and trust, and knowing the primary goal. How to get there becomes the issue. While he taps into the universality of human experience, he also talks about national and cultural issues that shape the discussions.

Highlights:

InQuasive

The techniques used to gain information from people.

What is truth?

The difference between interviews with different cultures

Interviewing people from authoritarian cultures.

Interviewing people from different languages.

Using interpreters.

Michael Reddington bio:

Michael Reddington is a Certified Forensic Interviewer, executive resource, President of InQuasive, Inc. and the author of The Disciplined Listening Method. He teaches executives and others how to reduce missed opportunities and move people from resistance to commitment.

As a Certified Forensic Interviewer, he achieved the highest professional designation available in the field of interview and interrogation. Michael spent over a decade training investigators around the world on the successful application of non-confrontational interview and interrogation techniques, earning the Outstanding Contribution Award from Homeland Security along the way. Michael has been invited by companies, government agencies and executive groups to facilitate his programs across the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He has led over 1,500 programs and educated over 15,000 participants from over 50 countries.

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Full Transcript

Hello everyone. 

Since today’s guest has done a lot of work in Europe, I thought it would be appropriate to start with a blooper that appeared on an Italian sign both in Italian and in English. The English translation was exactly accurate; It matches the Italian, so you can tell me exactly what you think it means because I have no real idea. The sign said in both languages, “For proper service, please turn on the vacuum cleaner while using the shower.”

So, with that wonderful word of wisdom, today’s guest is Michael Redington. 

Michael is the President and CEO of InQuasive, Inc and he is a certified forensic interviewer, executive resource, President of InQuasive, Inc. and the author of the Disciplined Learning Method. He teaches executives and others how to reduce missed opportunities and move people from resistance to commitment, whether for sales or for interrogation. 

Michael has been invited by companies, government agencies, and executive groups to facilitate his educational programs across the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He’s led over 1500 programs and educated over 15,000 participants from over 50 countries. 

Welcome Michael. Delighted that you’re with us.  

Thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here. 

Before we start, perhaps you could explain what inQuasive is and what you do professionally, because the whole idea of interrogation, which sounds like something from a spy movie, is not quite familiar to a lot of people in the non-spy context.  

Well, I appreciate you asking. Thank you very much. 

Really with InQuasive, Inc what we do is we provide educational opportunities, training, and advice to organizations as you mentioned around the world specifically to help them apply strategic and ethical observation and persuasion techniques and all their high-impact conversations like you mentioned: negotiation, business development, leadership communications candidate interviewing and beyond.

And to use the interrogation tie-in that you mentioned, that’s really where the name in place of comes from. The name InQuasive is the combination of inquiry and persuasion. And really if you think about trying to get information from somebody that they’d rather withhold, we have to inquire persuasively, we created the disciplined listening method really to help solve that Riddle. Half of disciplined listening is how we increase our strategic observation skills. How do we really understand the totality of circumstances? – All the intelligence that we’re witnessing before us.

And then on the other side, how do we improve those persuasive communication techniques so we can help people save face and protect their self-image, and commit to sharing the information and changing their behavior in the way that we need to in order to achieve our goals?  

 

That’s really interesting, thank you. You mentioned that you move people from resistance to commitment. Can you describe the techniques of how you might do that?  

Certainly, and it starts with what I just mentioned previously, which is helping people save face and protect their self-image. I think traditionally people think that the need to do this varies culturally depending on where you are in the world. There’s a greater need for people to save face and protect their self-Image.

While that is true, it is also truly a universal human need: When we think about obtaining an admission of wrongdoing and an interrogation. If we think about encouraging a customer to share sensitive information about his or her business, that might lead to a sale. If we think about somebody making a concession in negotiation or giving their leader the true reason as to why their performance is suffering or if we want to really get crazy. If we want someone to be honest in the job candidate interview when they’re applying for a position. That all comes down to allowing them to save face and protect their self-image so they don’t feel judged and they don’t feel embarrassed. 

So when we think about moving somebody from that resistance to commitment, it’s important to realize that anytime we’re having a conversation with somebody, if they have information and we need it, they’re in control of this conversation, not us. Regardless of our title, they’re going to be the one that chooses what to share and under what circumstances. 

So by giving up that need for control, we can start to determine what type of communication experience they need in order for them to choose… OK, I’m comfortable sharing this information, so taking that strategic goal-oriented approach that’s built around helping people save face and then asking questions in a way where we integrate, almost interrogate… I apologize… when we integrate some of these influential elements to help us along the way, that really would be the foundation.  

Also very interesting. As you just mentioned, perhaps in your written bio and also verbally, the concept of truth or cultural truth is a very relative term. Westerners assume that there is one set of immutable truths that ultimately descends from the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt do this. Thou shalt not do that. If you say what the facts are then that’s fine. if otherwise, you’re lying. And so forth. 

On the other hand, for Asians, meaning East Asians, Indians, and even Africans and Middle Easterners, the concept of truth is very relative and this is something very hard for Westerners to get because in other cultures, truth is what’s appropriate in this situation to enable someone to save face or to basically, give the inquirer what he or she wants to hear. 

Again, if you’re extracting the truth from people – extracting is the wrong word perhaps – but if you’re extracting the truth from people, how do you reconcile these two concepts, which again don’t quite match culturally?  

You completely correct that the two concepts don’t match culturally, although like a lot of things in life, I feel like many Westerners may espouse the definition of truth that you mention. And tend to live by the one that you described as more Asian. 

I’m often entertained. I have to entertain myself somehow when I’m working with groups often entertained when somebody inevitably says, “You know, I’ve never told a lie. I’m a very honest person. I’m totally against lying. I’ve never told a lie, yeah.”

Oh sure, right?  

So yeah, exactly there, there’s your first one for the day right there. 

But in reality, how many of us can’t say that we told somebody what they wanted to hear in order to avoid conflict or hurting somebody’s feelings in a situation? Has somebody asked us how they look in an outfit? Has somebody asked us how they sound singing? Has somebody asked us how the meal tastes? Has someone you know? For any one of these things, somebody asks us if we agree with their opinion and we just don’t have the energy for the debate. So, we say yes. 

So as human beings, I would certainly contend that many of us actually prescribed the second definition you gave, as opposed to the first. Yet when we’re hearing information and we have some of those moral attachments or those self-image attachments or those authority or respect attachments, that’s when we tend to be a little bit more offended. 

Finally, let’s circle back and answer your question. Honestly, and across situations I really embrace – and I’m not just speaking for myself – my former teammates as well really embraced that second definition. So, if we go back to helping people save face and protect their self-image, if I’m doing an investigative interview, I don’t want someone just to tell me what they think I want to hear so they can get out of the room. You know that’s not helping either of us. 

But I am 100% not only open to but in support of them having the opportunity to talk about what they did accurately. But maybe provide a reason that helps them save face and avoid embarrassment in the eyes of their interviewers. So, in this case, it would be me. And then using that excuse, if you will, in order to work backward towards what really happened in personal accountability and those things if it’s appropriate in the conversation.

So, I’ve probably mentioned it too many times. For the first five minutes of a conversation, that concept ties back to saving face. And it ties into situational awareness and for me, from an investigative standpoint, so many times where we see investigators, leaders, and international business professionals struggle is when they lack that situational awareness, and they have the blinders on, and X must always mean Y.  2 + 2 is always 4. And that’s not the case, and really elevating that situational awareness helps us understand how and why somebody is truly communicating in relation to the goals we’re looking to achieve. 

Do you find that this differs among cultures or among nationalities at all? 

It does, and I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on all of them. That would be quite disingenuous on my end. The concept of saving face I would contend does not. How it happens, or why it needs to happen. Some of the nuances of it absolutely vary. And as you and your listeners I’m sure know quite as well, something such as eye contact or distance, body positioning or gender relations or even age relations when people are having a conversation. 

Some topics are more openly discussed in some areas of the world or even here in the United States. And other topics aren’t. So, understanding those nuances going into the conversation can help create a more accurate plan for helping people save face. But I truly believe that that concept of saving face is universal.  

Yeah, it’s fascinating the way you described it. It’s very true in terms of Westerners especially. For example, if a woman asks, how do I look in this dress? Or your mother asks, how did you like the meal? Or I gave you a blue sweater for Christmas. Why aren’t you wearing it? Or something like that.

Yeah, yeah, there’s only one good answer to those questions. 

Yes, you’re describing also about the ideas of body positioning and eye contact and so forth. Male female interactions. Do you have to alter your techniques or your investigative methods? For example, an Arab woman would probably feel more comfortable answering a question asked by another woman than from a Western man. East Asians, well, Indians as well for that matter, Subcontinent Asians would feel more comfortable answering questions from an older person as opposed to a younger person. 

So, do you alter your techniques or your interview methods, or even the interviewer, according to those cultural issues?  

Whenever the opportunity allows itself, yes. There have been multiple times in my career where we have swapped out as part of the investigation. Somebody on the team might have been leading the investigation, but then when it comes time to have the conversation, the truth is always the priority. That is what matters the most. Using more legally and ethically sound manners to obtain the truth. 

And if in that consideration process if we stop and say for any reason, you know what? So and so or such and such might be a better interviewer in this situation for this reason, we’re going to make that decision every time it’s available. 

And then the instances where it’s not available, it’s incumbent upon the interviewer, let’s say myself, to be aware of them and to manage my interaction and my delivery as best I can given the situation. So just to give one example. I had to interview. I was in Chicago. And as part of an investigation, I had to interview a woman who grew up in Communist Hungary. So here I come. A man, a younger man for people that might not be listening to, a bald man. I don’t know if any of this is helping or not, someone who represents authority. I wasn’t interviewing on behalf of any law enforcement agency, but certainly representing authority, so there were lots of reasons in that conversation for the interviewee to have distrusted me before the conversation even started. 

So, I had to think of things like giving a little bit more space, a little bit further away than I normally would, sitting off to one side. So not all the way up to one side, but think about it as instead of sitting nose to nose, and I’m sitting more off of your shoulder so that way it’s not like a head-up position in the conversation. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t maintain as much eye contact because I didn’t want to come across as aggressive. 

Honestly, in preparing for interviews like this, I will intentionally wear pastel-colored shirts to try to manage my impression. Certainly, I’ll work on my tone of voice, and speed of delivery for somebody whose English wasn’t their first language. I want to make sure that I’m not telling jokes or using sarcasm, or speaking in a way that might be too fast, or they might not understand. 

So, all of these things come into play and on occasion, it’s appropriate to acknowledge it as well. I would never want to acknowledge it in a way that’s assumptive of somebody else’s belief. So, I would never coach. Never is a strong word, but it would be very hard for me to find a time where I would coach someone to say, “Well I understand where you’re from, I imagine you don’t want to talk to a western younger man” … That’s going to sound so judgmental. It’s going to kill the conversation. But what I can say is something along the lines of “I understand that when two people get together for a conversation, they might sometimes prefer the opportunity to talk to a different individual.”

And I like to promise everybody that as we go through the opportunities, we take every consideration we can to provide the best person to lead the conversation in order to try to create the best outcome at the end. Something along those lines, so that way it’s a general statement not pointed directly at the person I’m speaking with, again because I don’t want to offend their self-image.  

Very interesting. This next question relates to what you’re saying. Do you find that if people are from authoritarian cultures where the police and officials are very much to be feared and avoided, does that skew your conversation at all?  

It certainly can. For me it again I have to keep that in mind. Nothing I’m going to say or do in 60 minutes or so is going to change how that person feels, and nor should it based on where and how they grew up. 

But for me, I’m a prescriber of Julie Burgoon’s expectation violation theory and violation doesn’t necessarily mean bad. If you thought I was going to wear a white shirt and I wear a blue shirt, I violated your expectation. I mean, it can literally be that benign. 

So, if I’m talking to somebody, generally speaking, it’s in any type of business interaction and absolutely for an investigation, I want to start the conversation nicer and more respectful than they anticipated because that typically will garner a higher level of attention and focus for them as they’re trying to figure out why this is different than what they expect. It helps reframe their relationship.

So, if I have the idea that somebody is from a place that is likely to have had those authoritarian-type experiences, I want to dial that up another notch. I don’t want to dial it up so far that I’ve become a circus character. I’m inauthentic and it’s just goofy, but I do want to make sure that I am authentic {to use a word that’s used quite frequently these days} as nice and respectful as I can be. So I try to demonstrate that while we may only have a short time together in this conversation, I’m certainly nothing like what they’ve experienced in the past.  

And that disarming method or those disarming techniques do evoke the information that you’re looking for, I presume.  

Quite often.  

What about differences in language or intonation? Or for non-English speakers. How does that work?

That’s a bit, and even with English speakers, honestly, when I first started teaching in London, I had to realize that every sentence ends in a question mark. Whether it’s a question or not. 

So, for me, even making some of those adjustments we could even talk about differences between the people who speak the Queen’s English in the UK and in other countries and American English where entirely different words mean the same thing. So even English to English, but certainly in countries where English is the second language, I’ve got to play it a little bit more straightforward with my delivery. Less sarcasm, fewer jokes, certainly no acronyms, anything that might be specific to the United States. Colloquial, I believe, is the word I’m trying to find but couldn’t quite say. 

I want to make sure I leave those out and really kind of be more middle-of-the-road. With how I talk and then with interpreting their communication as certified forensic interviewers which you mentioned before. One of our core tenets is evaluating the totality of everything we observe within the context of the situation. 

So really, instead of trying to evaluate what somebody is saying–  if I’m just trying to do it based on their tone of voice or their speed of delivery, or where the pause is, not only can that be fatal to relationships internationally, but it can also domestically here at home as well. So really evaluating the totality of the conversation, being patient. Because often, especially if English isn’t somebody’s first language, it might take them a little bit longer, or require two or three different explanations, or they might not say exactly what they mean. So, I’m patient and let the conversation come to me. 

And then of course, respectfully asking follow-up questions. You know most of the time, if somebody truly is engaging with you, they’re welcoming of those questions. They know that two people are talking from two different places in the world and the opportunity to mutually educate each other is something that most people are willing to take advantage of.  

Do you ever use interpreters If the person doesn’t speak English at all?

I have  

You know that can also create a very… I don’t want to say a blockage to communication, but certainly a filter to the communication.  

Yeah, a big one, and it’s not a block but a time delay as well. So it’s a little bit different between teaching and interviewing. So if I’m teaching, I’m going to keep it into short blocks, then they’re going to speak. And then I’m going to go and then they’re going to go. And then if there’s a question, it’s in reverse order, so the flow is different.

 Lots of things are going to be a little bit different about it in an interview. The same rules apply where I’m going to be communicating. I’m going to be looking right at you and communicating with you. Then I’m going to pause. I’m going to let the translator go and especially in that context. I do want a translator. I don’t want an interpreter. I want somebody who’s going to say what I said word for word as much as possible.

To get back to your Italian sign example, from earlier, there are times when it just doesn’t work. Or it might mean something different, but I really want them to be word for word as much as possible. I’d like them to mirror the words, the tone, the pauses, all of those things because if we were speaking the same language, they would have an effect. 

That allows me to observe my subject’s reaction to the interpreter and then the translator, excuse me, and then listen to the translator as well, allowing for differences in words, tone expectations, relationships, the time delay, the blocks, all of those things.

Yeah, it impacts the conversation. It goes back to that contextual awareness which I feel in general people often overlook that I have to remember based on the structure of this conversation. The flow is going to be different and honestly in the end, the information I get might not be as detailed as if we were both speaking the same language, but ensuring the accuracy of the core components of the message is still paramount. 

If you’ll permit me, translation is written communication and interpreting is spoken communication and most people, especially the press corps for example, don’t know that. And what you’re speaking about is consecutive interpreting. You speak, then you’re quiet. The interpreter interprets and it goes in both directions, but interpreting is the proper terminology for that.  

I appreciate that.  

What about when they’re different? There’s a word that just has a totally different meaning. For example, individualism is very highly valued in the West, but it’s considered pretty negative in East Asian cultures. Those cultures are very group-oriented and to be an individual is, you know something bad. They’re sticking out. The expression in Japanese and Chinese is that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. 

So, if you’re just using words that have different meanings in different cultures, are you aware of them? Even if the interpreter speaks verbatim, or you know literally, are you aware of those concepts? And how do you adjust accordingly?  

I would be a fool if I said I was aware of all of them all the time like there’s always something that we don’t know that I don’t know. I’m certainly not a scholar in every culture or every culture here I might have to interact with somebody. 

Whenever time allows that’s why pre conversation pre well I guess I use the word interview pre-interview conversations with the interpreter become so important or if I’m teaching pre-engagement conversations with the interpreter to become so important. Because now, I can sit down with them and say hey this is the message I’m trying to get across. This is the information we’re looking for. Here’s how I want to make sure the conversation or the session looks, feels, and sounds for everybody. Are there things that I need to become aware of things that I make sure… Direct interpretation is very important to me. I understand that’s not always a good thing, so are there specific areas that I need to make sure I stay away from, especially where in a lot of these situations, especially in business, the people I’m with speak some English? 

So, they’re going to pick up on some of the things that I say, and if I manage to step on a landmine and someone catches it, even if the interpreter cleans it up, it could still be an issue for me. So, the education process is so important and not arrogant enough to think I’ve got it all figured out ahead of time.  

It’s wonderful that you have a conversation with the interpreter before you begin to set the expectations and a professionally trained interpreter should interpret pretty much verbatim what the interviewee is saying, as well as the tone. And the tone may or may not be appropriate. 

We’ve had other guests who told the interpreter, “I want you to sound extremely angry when you say this. Just as I’m saying it to you.” And the interpreter is shocked because no one in that culture would ever speak that way. But that’s for an effect so then the interpreter’s job is to convey the tone as well as the words.  

What about people with whom you’ve done true interrogations for the intelligence community? What happens in those cases? How does that work?  

You mean if I’ve interviewed somebody from the intelligence community. I want to make sure I understand your question correctly.  

No, if you’ve done interrogations, say for the intelligence community. Is there some special process or some special technique that you use to extract the information?  

And so, my former organization and I have done training programs for various intelligence agencies, but they tend to be pretty much … They like to take care of their own business. That’s the best way to say it. I have interviewed others. I’ve interrogated other professional interrogators before, but again it comes back to whether I want somebody to share sensitive information under vulnerable circumstances in the face of consequences. That’s really what we’re doing. If I want somebody to feel comfortable doing that, they have to see credibility in me and the investigation, and they have to have the opportunity to save face. End of story. 

Now there are different techniques that can help us accomplish those two things, but those are the two things that we have to accomplish whether it’s an investigation or in business. Anytime somebody comes to me and says, Mike, I have to have a conversation with Philip. How should I say this? I know they would really love a specific answer from me, maybe even an easy button so to speak, or a magic bullet or a magic wand if that works, but in reality, I always come back and ask them the same question. 

It’s got to start here. What are the goals of the conversation? Whom do we have to achieve those goals? What is the context of the situation? Who’s the person? What’s the question? What are we trying to achieve? 

Once we have those questions answered, now we can take a look at the greater context and start choosing the right techniques or the right approach to use. Is it more of a narrative approach? Is it more a fact-based approach? Do I want to start with my primary suspect and then maybe work my way out? Do I want to start with some of my secondary and tertiary suspects and work my way into the primary suspects?

In business, do I want to negotiate for the most important issue now? Do I want to work my way to it? Do I want to work on it, where, when, and how should these conversations take place? I mean, there are logistical considerations as well, but it comes down to determining what am I trying to achieve with whom and under what circumstances. 

Very interesting again. You’ve obviously worked in over 50 countries or so with 15,000 participants. I presume there have been a few who have angered you over the years. Can you elaborate on some of those situations?  

I’ve been really lucky as far as getting angry. I’ve been really lucky. I certainly can’t think of a time when I was angry teaching a seminar, not internationally. There’s one that sticks out a long time ago here domestically, but that was in Chicago. There was nothing really international about that. That was just one person who had a specific attitude they were going to carry for a couple of days. 

There were certainly times when awkward might not even be well, yeah, I think awkward is probably a fair word. When I was teaching in Dubai, thankfully I had done enough research to know that extended handshakes are quite common in that region. 

Whereas here in the United States, if you shake somebody’s hand for more than two seconds, you’re already violating our social norms. And at our first break, an older gentleman walked up to the front of the room to introduce himself and shake my hand. And so as I’m shaking his hand, he starts to ask me, is this your first time in the Middle East? Is this your first time in the Emirates? Is this your first time in Dubai? Where have you been? Who is taking care of you? What would you like to see? Are you having a good time? What can I do?

So, we’re having this entire conversation and he’s holding my hand for the entirety? In reality, it probably lasted three to five minutes. In my head, it felt like about a day and 1/2. So, my rational brain had to shut down my emotional brain as if this were totally normal. 

I was in Oman. And we were talking about handshakes and things that are different culturally. It was actually more. It was with the whole class, but it was more of a side conversation. And a rather large man named Khalil, like a movie character, a big, big, big man decides that he would like to show me how he shakes friend’s hands with his friends.

So, I don’t know… Maybe people will tell me he was actually making fun of me and not being my friend after they listen to this. But he stands up and marches down the center aisle and I literally remember it like a movie character like this giant marching towards me. He walks up. He shakes my hand, grabs my elbow, pulls me towards him, then bends over, rubs his nose on my nose, and does this {click sound} right in my face. Stands back, slaps me on the shoulder and says, “There. Now we are friends,” turns around and walks back to his seat. 

So I think from a teaching perspective, those are the first two that jumped to mind. Certainly, traveling through some of the countries I’ve been to travel through outside Nairobi, traveling outside Dar Al Salam. Traveling outside Amman. Some of the cities that I’ve been to where it literally is a different world and there are different things going around that I see and different interactions that I’ve had with people. But really from a teaching standpoint, those would be the two. 

And in Arab culture, it’s very common too for the Arabs to come very close to your face. Americans have a much greater sense of personal space and distance, whereas in Arab culture they’re extremely close and Westerners can feel very uncomfortable. 

Yes

Do you have other examples where that has happened?

The funniest one, I don’t know that I have her permission to tell this story. It actually happens with my wife. So I was fortunate to have the opportunity to lead an engagement in Monaco and the gentleman who invited me to speak was from Greece. So my wife and I spent some time on the French Riviera and then made our way over to Monaco. And as we arrived at the hotel, my host happened to be arriving at the same time. So, we turned around to “Michael, It’s so good to see you, I’m glad you’re here” and he gives me a big hug. I’ve met him before. I know him. He’s never met my wife. My wife is from a very small town in the southern states here in the United States, so like the personal distance that she likes to maintain could be measured in meters as opposed to feet. And he looks at her, saying “Oh, Brooke, you’re so lovely. You’re even prettier than Michael described.” He gives her a big hug and a kiss on both  cheeks. And my wife is literally frozen looking at me like what’s going on here? It never dawned on me to explain to her that in the Mediterranean, it’s a little bit different in this part of the world than what we’re used to. So that one is the one that sticks out for me the most from a proximity standpoint.  

Very funny, thank you. You mentioned before the interview the situation on the Canadian border. And you’ve crossed a lot of borders, but something that the US-Canadian border was the most difficult of all the international borders you’ve crossed. Can you elaborate on what that is?  

Yeah, I wish I knew why. I mean, there’s probably something somewhere. Maybe it’s how I look. I don’t know, but I swear every time I go to Canada I’m pulled into the room for a secondary conversation or put into the secondary line for another passer. I’ve got to go to a different desk and talk to an agent before I can get Into Winnipeg.

So those are… I wish I could tell you what it is, but the Canadians certainly seem to be, at least with me, to be more cautious than every time I’ve gone to Europe. It’s like they just look at me, stamp my passport, and say have a good time. 

The Middle East. I was very fortunate that there were concierges that I had been connected with before I got to all of those countries where I was kind of shepherded through the process there, which was quite nice.

When I went to Kenya, I was literally driving to the airport here in the States and my contact in Nairobi calls in. His literal first words were “Don’t worry about the news, it’s nowhere.” Near where we are what? What news? What are you talking about? 

And there had been a terrorist attack and the authorities had responded with force and all of this stuff. So, he tells me that’s fine. And honestly, I’m thinking it’s too late now anyway, so… But then he says to me, I’d already filled out some of the paperwork to travel there, and he had taken care of some things on his end. But he told me when you get here, they’re going to ask you if you’re here for business or personal, say personally. Don’t say business. It will take you much longer. Just say personal. Don’t worry about it. You came to visit me. I like it cool. 

So, I fly from Chicago to Istanbul, Istanbul to Nairobi and I’m in a fog when I get off the plane. And the airport in Nairobi had recently had a fire, so they had moved the passport control literally into the basement of another terminal. So, we get off the plane. We’re downstairs in this little basement and I’m standing. There are three podiums with the passport control person and then an armed officer behind them. 

And I’m standing in line telling myself, you know, you’re here to see Aseed. You are here to see Aseed.

And so, when I get to the front of the line, they look at my passport, and they say, “What is the purpose of your visits?” And I swear to you, the words that came out of my mouth were…

“I’m here to visit one friend.” 

Nobody talks like that, nobody does. As soon as I said it, I’m like I’m going to jail. I’m going to jail in Kenya and I just got here and the passport control officer looked at my passport. He smiled at me and he said, you’ve flown an awful long way to visit a friend and I said, yes, I’m exhausted. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Assed. And he said, have a nice trip and gave me my passport. So yeah, if that was in Canada, I might have been detained for a week, but in Nairobi they let me walk.  

Reminds me of the expression “driving while Black” except for you It’s “driving while bald.”

Yes, yes, or Americans sometimes just depend on it.  

Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close? 

For me, I think back to the success that my teammates and I have had over a long period of time. And I was asked this not too long ago, so it’s fresh on my mind. I truly believe that the root of our success can be taken back or drawn down to embracing the universality of the human experience. 

And well, yes, there are so many culturally appropriate, sensitive, unique aspects of how we live and communicate. We’re all human and we all have the same core human needs. Sometimes they just manifest themselves differently based on how we’ve been raised or where we’re from or where. 

Hopefully not under investigative circumstances, but hopefully under business or social circumstances. Really just starting there and embracing the universality of the human experience and understanding that no matter where we’re from or how different we may seem, we really do have so much more in common. And if we can really start with some of those core things that we have in common, the relationships we can build and the experiences we can have are so much more powerful than we may believe.  

Very true. 

With that wonderful note, thank you so much for joining us. This has been Philip Auerbach of Auerbach International (www.auerbach-intl.com),  and I hope you’ll join us next time for another edition of Global Gurus. Thank you. 

Thank you. 

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