Be careful what you ask for

This is the second speech in the Toastmaster humorously speaking manual, leave them with a smile. The objective of this project is to prepare a serious speech that opens and closes with humorous stories and the closing story should reemphasizes the speech’s main point.

Dear Mr. chairman, fellow toastmasters, honored guest. Last year I spent almost 3 months living in India for my project. When I am in Bangalore, the company put us in a service apartment with maids come to do cleaning everyday. Just like any places in developing countries, our apartment have cockroaches problem. Everyday after work, we have to hunt down the cockroaches, kill them brutally with shoes or flash lights. One day we are tried of being crude to the cockroaches, so we took out a Ziploc contain to catch a cockroach. We don’t know what to do with the cockroach we caught, obviously we can’t keep it as a house pet. Next morning, we leave the container on the table and told the maid to get rid of cockroach. When we come home that day, the cockroach is gone, but to our surprise we found the Ziploc box went back to the cupboard with all other clean dishes.

PMC Sierra is a global company. We have design centers around the world. Effective communication among the team members across different sites is one of our daily challenge. Many of us are working on projects with team members in different countries with a different cultural background. Culture affect how people think and affect how people act. Aware the cultural difference can minimize misunderstanding in our communication.

Most of us grow up in Canada, we assume a North America cultural perspective. Sometimes we are not aware of the cultural difference when we talk to people in other countries. We take it for granted that our listeners can understood our message in the way that we expect. We are not aware of a subtle difference in the language we use can have a totally different meaning to a person coming from a different culture background. Be careful what you ask for. You will get exactly what you asked, but not really want you want.

Developing the culture sense is not an easy task. It takes time and experience to learn how to work smoothly with people in different culture. I would like to share a tip on better communication across difference culture. Here is the rule of thumb. When you in doubt, always ask for confirmation. Don’t just ask a yes or no question. Often you will get a yes, even though your listen has no clue what you are talking about. Ask your listen repeat your message in his own words. You can sense whether he gets it or not. If he fails to get it, you just rephrase your message with different expression. After a few trials, your listener should grasp the meaning of your message.

I would like to conclude my speech with another story. The Bangalore office has a cafeteria, just like our cafeteria down stairs, its menu does not many choices. To make it worse, it only serves Indian food. Everyday, I can choose to have red curry, orange curry or yellow curry for lunch. After a few weeks of having curry for lunch. I am sick of the lack of variety. I asked the kitchen staff, do they have a different menu. The kitchen staff said he can bring in some sandwich for me tomorrow. I gladly take the offer and order a chicken sandwich. The next day, when I go to lunch in the cafeteria, the kitchen staff has a brown paper lunch bag ready for me. I am eager to try something else other than curry for lunch. I open my lunch bag and inside I found … a curry chicken sandwich.

4 thoughts on “Be careful what you ask for”

  1. Thanks. It is a nice speech to read (I bet it will be better being delivered live). I did have a smile but I also had the Ewwww expression. Thanks for reminding me of roaches. Ewwww. 🙂

  2. Actually I did not do very well in speech, I had several awkward pause in the middle of the speech trying to remember the next line. I didn’t practice enough before I went on stage.

  3. Yeah, those awkward pauses. It was long ago but I think one of my speech flowed too well and I ended up skipping a paragraph or two. Now I don’t remember how awkward was the recovery.

    Yeah, speaking at toastmasters club amongst friends and colleagues who want to help you is a great experiences. And seeing how great some speakers are, surly is an inspiring experiences.

    One thing that remains with me even to this day is to be fearless. I know I may make mistakes but so what?! Lets get back onto the point I want to say. 🙂

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