There’s a communication secret I promised to tell you last time. In fact, I learned this the hard way. I didn’t know about it when I first visited England. Even though I read lots of books, passed language exams with excellent results but still, nobody really prepared me for real-life communication with the English.
It’s not that I couldn’t speak – I could speak very well but I was not aware of a crucial English communication principle. Let me show it to you through a personal story.
I met an English friend, and I stayed at his place for a few days. He aske me if I’m going to an event that was the subject of buzz for a few days in London. I said: “Well, not really. I think most people there will be rather stuffy and pretentious and I’m not really into that kind of atmosphere.”
At least that’s what I heard about that particular event and I wasn’t really interested to go. I just wanted to do some sightseeing in London. My acquaintance just replied: “Yeah, very true. Very true.“
Later I learned that my host would attend the event because he’s a member of the host organization. Oouch! That’s really embarrassing. I should’ve known better.
Of course, we talked things over and we’ve developed a very good friendship since. I usually clear the air with everyone and embarrassment never holds me back from setting things straight.
But in any case, students need to know one thing about England: the so-called simulation of etiquette. I talk more about this on the Metaphor Mastery Platform but in a nutshell:
It means English people often simulate interest when they’re not interested, they invite you for a coffee when actually they don’t mean to, or they agree with your opinion when actually they couldn’t disagree more. It’s all because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. That’s a very important cultural norm in England: don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
Just think about my friend. I (accidentally and unknowingly) offended the organization that he was a member of. He didn’t start arguing with me and didn’t express even the slightest disagreement. Not a single word. He just said: that’s very true.
Keep in mind that the English (and Americans to some degree) usually simulate more than what they actually mean. All this to protect your feelings, so to speak.