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Localization manager/translator and coach/intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about diversity management and intercultural communication, self-awareness and coaching, SFBT and NVC, languages, cultures, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free keto food and good movies. How about you?
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I'm the only person responsible for its content and the views and opinions expressed here are solely mines.
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Monday, August 28, 2017

Maybe you share 50% of your DNA with a banana, or maybe not. In any case, you should probably reconsider your assumptions about percentage, tattoos and "innocent" questions

Would you ever go to someone you either don't know or don't know that well and, while doing small-talk, ask them with no particular goal in sight if they got their hairstyle, hair color, makeup, or manicure by chance?
Their clothes? Their shoes? Their jewelry? Their glasses maybe?

Probably, you would not be that person. Instead, you would be aware of the fact that it could sound like a verbal aggression or like you are questioning their choices, their taste, their discernment, their ability to make a decision and to think about the consequences and the impact of their actions.
Not exactly the perfect icebreaker with a stranger, if you ask me.

But I don't want to rush things here.
So let's start... with a banana instead.

[Gustav Klimt's The Kiss (Lovers) 
as a banana art piece by Stephan Brusche]

According to many scientific studies and countless Internet memes of the last fifteen years, we as human beings share between 50% and 60% of our genetic patrimony with bananas.
Yes, bananas. Those yummy yellow sugary things.
And yet, we aren't bananas, even if we can go bananas. And we can go nuts as well, but let's not go off on a tangent here.

If you don't believe me and need more data, you are welcome!

Depending on the sources, the numbers go like this: between 50% and 60% genetic similarity with bananas, between 60% and 75% with chickens, 80% with cows, between 85% and 92% with mice, 90% with cats, between 92% and 98% with apes.
After these numbers, you will probably agree with me that a small difference in a percentage of some kind can make a huge difference, depending on the specific circumstances. Please keep this in mind, and bear with me.

While dealing with unicorn-like-patterns and tattooed legs, a couple of readers pointed out as a feedback that someone can feel like a unicorn even while not looking like one. 
Depending on your background, family history, overall past, emotional scars, psychological traits and a zillion of other factors, you can, of course, feel like you don't belong or are different even if you could be perceived as a "good fit" within your environment and among your peers.
Of course, I agree (and thanks for the feedback! I always love to get some).

One person can be treated differently or feel different for just so many reasons, and yet to me, it still makes a difference if we are talking about:
- something related to the way you look like (aka something that, no matter what, can be seen by everyone at any moment while dealing with you) 
- or something absolutely legit and "real" to you and yet not immediately perceivable from the outside, like your values, overall past or issue-related past, limiting beliefs, motivating mantras, ideas and quirky interests (here again, the mileage may vary for some kind of religion, form of spirituality, and unusual assets).

[Are you a big fan of the Care Bears?
That's for sure quirky, 
but I am not going to discover this about you immediately,
unless you are carrying some kind of related merchandising with you...]

In the latter case, people need time to discover those things about you and, depending on their values system, social skills and EQ, use them "against" you, bring them up over and over again, make fun of you or put you in a box because of them, depending on the circumstances, while in the first case someone just having a short look at your looks department can generate human interactions like the following one within seconds: 

She (coming over to me while crossing the room, as she would have something of vital importance to discuss): 
Is your body completely tattooed? 
Me (minding my own business just a second before and being taken aback a little bit): 
About 60-65% of my body is tattooed. Why? 
She (still not realizing that maybe it is not something she should ask, but hey!, tattooed people are alive just to reply to those questions, right?): 
Is it something that you did by chance? 
Me (doing my best to keep my cool, and more or less managing it, while at the same time thinking "WTF!?"): 
Getting tattooed is not something you do by chance while taking a walk on the street and being tattooed as an accident by someone that was passing by. You go to someone for it, on purpose. What do you mean with that? 
She (at the point of no return, and yet going further, totally relaxed): 
Well, you know what I mean. You see around so many people with some tattoos (she makes a hand gesture that refers to an imaginary tattoo on someone's forearm, as big as a 2€ coin) and when you ask them, they tell you that they were curious and wanted to try something out. They didn't really think about that.
Me (still doing my best to keep my cool): 
I think you will agree with me that having some tiny tattoo somewhere because one day you had nothing better to do and having about 60% of your body tattooed is not exactly the same. We are talking about a lot of time, energy, pain, planning, skin care routine, and money, here. It's a way of life
She (realizing, at last, that she just asked me if I tattooed 60% of my body over 20 years putting a lot of effort into it just by chance, without knowing what I was doing, tattoo session after tattoo session): 
Oh! I see.
Me (needing a little bit of fresh air, before another question about tattoos will pop up in her mind): 
I am glad that you understand. Would you mind to excuse me now?

[A selection of coins from different countries, including the 1€ and 2€ coins
With a body surface area (BSA) for adults between 1.6 m² and 1.9 m², 
and the 2€ coin having a diameter of 25.75 mm...
What percentage of your body does one of them represent?]

Without taking the example with the coin literally, and even while imagining that some of those tattoo parvenus can maybe have about 6% to 10% of their body tattooed, to me there is still a difference between 6% and 60%. Which is, you guessed it, exactly ten times more. And even between 10% and 60%. Which is, and I am sure you guessed it again, exactly six times more.
Do you remember? We share about 90% of our DNA with cats and about 92-98% with apes. 6% can be a lot, sometimes...

Do you think that you would notice the difference between getting 6% or 60% of pay raise?
And between 6% or 60% of your favorite cake just for you?
And between 6% or 60% of your annual holiday entitlement at once?

Let's jump back to the beginning of this post.
(Spoiler for you if you are the forgetful type: we are talking about the kind of questions you would never ask a stranger in order to make small-talk and be considered a hell of a good networker).

Still, all those questions refer to things that are temporary. You can change them pretty fast if you get bored and change your mind. You can't do the same with your skin that fast and effectively, not even with the laser treatment.
And yet, to some people, such a question about tattoos sounds totally fine, since they don't realize how personal it actually is and how easily can be misunderstood. 
And here we are not even talking about how deeply such a question is, well... questioning a person's self-image and chosen identity.

How many other questions that look totally fine at first are not fine at all, if we take a deeper look at them and we keep cultural sensitivity on our radar? 
How about thinking about what those questions could imply and, above all, what they say about us and our empathy level, before saying them out loud, on the next occasion?

In the meantime... Some vegan banana split, anyone?

Tags: Tattoos, Tattooed people, Alternative ways of life, Prejudices, Clich├ęs about tattoos, Questions about tattoos, Being a minority, Developing cultural sensitivity

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