Kopfkino – my new favourite word.
Such a precise and clear definition of something we all do.
Kopfkino describes those moments when you play out an entire scenario in your head. If you don’t speak German it literally translates as ‘head cinema’.
You and I both do that, more than we’d like to admit.
There’s the nice version, for instance, imagining your boss is going to award you a promotion because of a major deal you’re about to pull off.
The real story: you’ve not even picked up the phone or identified the opportunity yet so that’s just a pleasant dream.
You might also attach meaning to something negative: say, you didn’t get a reply from that prospective client you met last week. Jeez, you went all the way to Cologne to that trade show, they seemed really enthusiastic and now they’ve disappeared off the face of the earth. Well, that’s a dead end, no point wasting time on them anymore. If they’re all like that, no point going there again or sales are going to plummet…
The real story: the week after a trade show is as busy as the week before as you frantically try to keep all the promises you made on the exhibition floor. You know that, but sometimes your brain likes to spice things up a little, add a bit of drama to make things interesting.
When you’re dealing with another culture, say your prospects are British, this is when your mind can play tricks on you. Kopfkino can really come into its own.
Understanding a subtle distinction where both sides mean something slightly different can have a huge impact on the outcome. Stop your Kopfkino in its tracks by running through these three points:
1. Instead of taking things at face value when you’re dealing with the British, consider our love of humour and sarcasm. Ask for further explanation if necessary.
2. Consider that the British are masters of understatement. The British pilot Eric Moody was flying from Britain to New Zealand in 1982 when Mount Galunggung erupted and volcanic ash caused all four engines to fail. This is what he said: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.” Technology may have improved since the 80s (though volcanic ash would probably still cause a fair bit of disruption), but our communication style is deeply ingrained.
3. Consider also that we are generally non-confrontational. We would rather hoover up after a visitor has left than ask them to take their muddy shoes off before they walk all over a cream carpet. Applied to business, your British colleague may not want to criticise or confront you directly so will soften the criticism. Listen to the underlying message carefully, it might be sandwiched between more positive information.
And if you’re starting to think this is all too much bother, Brexit is real, and how on earth do we Brits get any business done at all, fear not. My insider’s guide to doing business with the British and increasing your profit margin is just what you need.
Burrow into the British mind, explore international marketing issues, discover why your clever concept may fail outside of your domestic market… and how to avoid that happening in the first place. And much more!
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