Most of us show some of their feelings with family and close friends. In contrast, whether to show your feelings with people you don’t know or in a work situation is another matter.
It is very easy to recognise if somebody shows their feelings or not. It is one of the most obvious differences to notice between different cultures. Paradoxically, it is one of the hardest to change, to adapt to and to acknowledge.
In some cultures, such as in Northern Europe, you are not expected to show your feelings in work situations. You’ve got to take everything on the chin, bottle up, or not be too enthusiastic when things go well. It can be even more repressed in some Asian cultures.
In many places, showing feelings, particularly such as anger, will make you appear extremely unprofessional.
In contrast, in other cultures such as in Southern Europe, it is considered that feelings are part and parcel of who you are. Feelings are used in decision making. Feelings are used to convey messages that your words cannot. Not exhibiting any feelings is considered as dubious. People will think you may be hiding something, you are cold and unapproachable.
When people from these two different sides meet, it is easy to see that there will be an obvious mismatch. One person might think that they cannot trust the other person because they feel so distant and cold, while the other person might think the other one is like a child, throwing a tantrum or getting excited.
You’d think that when the difference is so obvious to notice, it should be easy to adapt to the situation. This is not the case. If you are on the side of not expressing your feelings, how is it when you force yourself to express them? You are likely feeling like playing a role, not really being you. On the opposite, if you try to repress your feelings, you will likely be like boiling inside.
So, how to make things a bit easier when you communicate with somebody on the other side of the spectrum in terms of expressing feelings?
First, try to move a bit towards the middle of the scale. Try to express yourself slightly more if you usually hide your feelings. Try to be slightly less expressive if you are used to show your feelings plainly.
Second, discuss it openly with your interlocutor. Acknowledge each other’s attitude, do not judge and explain what it means for each of you. Do not interpret somebody’s actions, attitudes and behaviours by your own standards because they just don’t apply to people from other cultures.