Tipsheet: Cultural Connection

Cultural Connection

Have you ever been in a situation where a joke you told falls flat? A bit embarassing perhaps, but you shouldn’t blame yourself: it’s not your fault – it is the listener’s.

There are many reasons why people find something funny: maybe it’s a play on words, a physical gag, or an unexpected situation or comment. Very often, however, the audience’s perspective is rooted in their cultural upbringing. If their background is different than yours, they may not "get" your joke because they didn’t grow up with the punchline. It’s their fault. (Of course, in the extreme case, they may even be offended.)

The solution: put yourself in the shoes of your audience – all of their unique, diverse shoes. The more you’re aware of these differences, the more they will hear what you mean to say – and maybe even laugh at your humor.

While a missed joke may not be a huge issue, what about other communications? When someone doesn’t understand your point, they won’t actively engage. If someone is offended by your communications, they will disengage, or actively obstruct your project.

This week’s action item: Having a cultural connection isn’t about being politically correct. It’s about connecting with all of the people that you need to rely on, and actively engaging them. This week, ask your colleagues to flag you if anything that you say doesn’t register, or registers negatively. If you’re going to tell a joke, why not find a way for everyone to laugh, together?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

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Randall Craig has founded several successful start-ups, held a long-time position at a “big-four” consulting firm, and was an executive at an American public company. He currently serves as the 108 ideaspace CEO and chief strategist. Randall has been advising on digital strategy since 1994: he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail’s GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations.

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