I Value My Relationships

I showed up to a birthday party at a friend’s home. The invitation said the party would start at 3:00pm, and we figured the party would last about two hours. We get there at 3:00 with a cute present wrapped and my child excited and ready to play. We walk in and are greeted by the mom, and she tells us where to put the present and where to go to play. I ask if there is anything I can help with. The home is decorated, and snacks are put out. The children play the games provided, then we gather around for cake and presents. The cake looks designed for the occasion, and the presents were all picked just for the child having the birthday. We leave around 5:00pm, which is exactly what we were thinking. As we leave we thank the parents for inviting us, say our good byes, and head home thinking the party was successful.

My last group of posts have been about looking at more of a Western culture’s take on different topics and how they compare to other cultures. I wanted to wrap up this series by going into further detail about our values. I am going to be using the example of task versus relationship orientation.

Looking at the scenario I described, most Americans would say that is fairly standard for a birthday party. However, I have been in cultures that would have been appalled by several of the assumptions I made and the way I described the party.

Are you confused? Well, lets take a look at some values…

Typically, Western cultures are very task oriented, valuing the to-do list. There is a tendency to communicate accurate information and look at data to get the point across. The focus in society is on logic and facts. A high priority is put on time and efficiency, and that is even seen as being respectful to others because their time is important also.

On the other hand, many other cultures are relationship oriented, putting a high value on relationships. The focus is on feelings and harmony. People take priority over information, so meetings between people tend to start with common talk instead of “getting to the point.” In fact, jumping in with business talk may feel inappropriate, and respecting others means considering the person before the task at hand.

Neither of these values are wrong. I personally tend to be more task oriented, which makes sense, being from the USA. That does not mean I do not value relationships, but how I value relationships looks different. Both task and relationship orientations hope to respect others, they just go about that in different ways. Since Americans love their schedules, I feel I respect them by not wasting their time. If a party starts at 5pm, I make sure to be there on time and to not stay too long so they have time to clean up before bed. However, in other countries, time constraints are not so rigid.

We are afraid to care too much, for fear the other person does not care at all.                               -Eleanor Roosevelt

Allow me a quick example of the same birthday party above being described from more of a relationship-oriented perspective:

My family was invited to a birthday party. When we arrived, the children were playing and looked so excited to be there. You could tell the birthday girl loves princesses because all of the little girls were dressed like princesses. The parents were very welcoming, and we were excited to hear how they were doing! We chatted about what was going on in their lives and what was going on in the birthday girl’s life. After mingling a little longer and casually getting delicious snacks, we watched the kids play games and played with them. The games were so much fun, and all of the kids enjoyed them so much. After games we had cake. The cake matched the theme of the party, and we were so happy to see how much the parents loved their daughter to give her so much. As we sang to the daughter, her face lit up in joy. As we ate cake, she opened her presents. We could see how loved she was by the presents, and she was definitely excited. Her parents were so grateful for what had been given. After presents, we hung around a little longer to see if we could help our friends. We had such a great time at the party!

A bit different right?

My challenge to you is to be patient with those you come into contact with, because they may be trying to respect you, it just may not look the way you would expect.