A couple weeks ago, I partook in a training at my job. It was about how to effectively communicate when working, especially for engineering firms. By taking part in this training I was able to get a lot of useful information but I wasn’t able to resolve one of the biggest issues I’ve had.
I realize, personally, that I am not very good at communicating. Not to blame it on my personal cultural upbringings but being raised to be polite to anyone older than you, has really hindered me in my abilities to communicate with people at work. The main reason is that, speaking in terms of how Japanese people put it, older also includes people that have been in industry longer than you. So if I were to start working in a company and I am 25, and someone there is 21, I would be expected to speak to them politely and honorably.
So why has this hindered in my abilities to communicate? In Japanese and many other languages, there are things called honorifics. It is a method of speaking in which the works/sentences that you use naturally become polite. We do not really have an equivalent to that in the English language. Because of this small dilemma, I make an effort to speak politely, which in turn makes me sound extremely awkward.
The ACEC training mainly covered how to communicate with everyone at work without the feeling of uneasiness. How to communicate through an email, the speaker covered a lot. But unfortunately, I wasn’t really able to get an answer on my own personal issue. The biggest thing my supervisor told me when I was working was, “just because you are an intern, or someone who just doesn’t know as much about engineering still doesn’t mean you are any less than any of the professional engineers that are working here. So feel free to speak up and be confident in yourself.” He told me this when I first started because he realized how I was a different persona from when he saw me present at school versus how I was acting during work. As sad as it was, it was a bit embarrassing, not because I needed to be told that, but because he noticed how different I was.
This is an issue that I have always tried to fix, and I have gotten to the point where I am able to talk naturally (or at least I hope so) to professors and younger professionals. However, I still have trouble with significantly older professionals. I’m not sure how I am going to fix this because it seems like I would just need to get used to it once I start working but somewhere in the back of my mind I feel like I need this fixed before then…
Being bilingual is nice an all… but the cultural background that comes with it has really… messed with me.