You must come for coffee….. or not.
I found this on Facebook. 803 shares, 2269 people like this, over 10 different languages (probably more!) with comments ranging from ‘Ah yes!’ to ‘Very funny’ to ‘British people are politely understated’ to ‘wow, i am totaly British’. Some commentors defended it and some made politcal comments and others openly mocked the British use of language. Needless to say, it got ALOT of reaction to it.
I made my own comment – I thought it was incredibly funny and absolutely true and i also shared it to my wall. It’s funny because it is so true and clearly I am not the only person who thinks this. Phew!
In business, I have learned to ask for clarification. When I feel the conversation is vague and no concrete decisions have been made, leaving me unsure of what I need to be doing, or if I go the job or not, or if I understood what the plan of action was, I simply ask in a straighforward (and polite) way, what the deal is. Do I have the job? Do you want me to do this? Are you happy with my quote and do you want to proceed? I don’t always get a straight answer but at least I have a better idea of what’s going on. I think my favorite in the list is ‘very interesting’ because I hear myself saying that now too and I actually mean ‘that is clearly nonsense’!! And, especially in my line of work I always get ‘I only have a few minor comments’. I used to think it meant ‘just a few typos’ but now I know to expect a list of major changes both to the copy and to the design.
It also took me a while to not take things so personally. For example, I thought if someone said ‘you must come for coffee’ that an invitation would soon follow and I would feel personally hurt when it didn’t. I now understand this is not a personal shun, it’s just the way that British people are. They are too polite NOT to say it. It doesn’t stop me from saying it and then following up with an actual invitation. I discuss more about this in my book Bringing Up Brits.
For newbies to Britain, I hope you find this useful. I wish I had seen it 8 years ago when I was just starting my company White Ochre Design. It would have been very helpful!