I share tips on how to develop the skill of adaptability

English Level: B2 🇨🇦

Full Transcript

My dad can walk into any room and make friends quickly. He’s able to adjust his accent and vocabulary depending on the group of people he’s with.

As a young boy, I didn’t understand why he did this but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to see the genius in his ways.

Humans naturally gravitate towards people who are like them. That’s where they feel most comfortable. By changing his accent and mannerisms, my father is telling people, “don’t worry, I’m like you.”

What experience has taught me is that if I’m not able to adapt to my environment, I will miss out on opportunities and struggle in business and in life.  

So here are the reasons why my father has been so successful in his interactions with others:

  1. He’s willing to learn from others. He doesn’t go into a situation thinking he knows more than the people there. His starting point is, “what can I learn from these individuals?”. During my time in Germany, I’ve had mentors give me advice on how to navigate the business world and because of my father’s example, I’ve listened to them. For example, these mentors have taught me about how to manage German directness. It’s not an easy transition, because Canadian politeness often clashes with German directness. But the lessons I’ve learned from my mentors have improved my ability to communicate with people and also increased the business opportunities available to me.
  2. My dad takes risks. He once told me, “if you want to walk on water, you need to get out of the boat.” My first two years in Germany were difficult. I struggled to understand the mentality of people here, and found myself preferring to stay home alone. I was afraid of feeling stupid in my interactions with Germans. I was miserable. Then one day I said, “I gotta get out of the boat.” I created the Freiburg 100 list. My goal was to meet 100 Germans in 90 days. I looked for every opportunity possible to meet up and practice my German. I was often uncomfortable, I made mistakes, and to be honest, some of the people I met were not that nice…. But after those 90 days, I had reached my goal and had more confidence when speaking German. I was no longer afraid.
  3. Learn from your mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my interactions with Germans. For example, my default setting is overly positive. I’m very optimistic. Unfortunately, this was preventing me from connecting with people. People here were often annoyed at me. I had to change something so I reduced my intensity. Now, when I meet someone, if they are serious, I take a serious approach as well. I learned from the mistakes of the past, and my interactions with people here have become so much better.

So the three ways to develop the skill of adaptability are:

  1. Learn from others – ask lots of questions, listen and apply what you’ve learned.
  2. Go out of your comfort zone – If you’re an eagle in a chicken pen, you’ll never learn to fly unless you leave.
  3. Learn from your mistakes – No one is perfect. If something doesn’t work, ask yourself why and then try a different method next time.

Vocabulary Words

  1. Adjust (verb): alter or move (something) slightly in order to achieve the desired fit, appearance, or result.
  2. Genius (noun): an exceptionally intelligent person or one with exceptional skill in a particular area of activity.
  3. Mannerism (noun): a habitual gesture or way of speaking or behaving.
  4. Struggle (verb): have difficulty handling or coping with.
  5. Navigate (verb): guide or steer (someone).
  6. Transition (noun): the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
  7. Clash (verb): be incompatible or at odds.
  8. Annoyed (adj.): slightly angry; irritated.

Phrases to Remember

  1. Gravitate towards: to move or tend to move toward someone or something. : to be attracted to something or someone.
  2. Meet up with: come into the presence or company of someone, especially by arrangement.

Look for ways to go outside of your comfort zone.

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