Author Topic: Diplomatic responses about difficult year  (Read 3467 times)

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daen

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Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« on: September 12, 2013, 09:49:51 PM »
(BG) My husband and I have taken year-long contracts in another country to support a religious organization. Our contracts are almost up, and it's been a difficult and stressful year, particularly for my husband. It was bad enough that at one point we considered terminating our contracts early. If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn't have come. (/BG)

Now that our last day is rapidly approaching, we're having the same conversation with people. It begins "You're leaving soon, right?" and then goes through "How are you feeling now?" and then to "How was your year?"

I find it easy enough to answer the "How are you feeling?" question, which is along the lines of "Do you want to stay longer?" I refer to the family and pets I haven't seen for a year, and the new baby in the family that I have yet to meet in person, and everyone is completely understanding.

"How was your year?" is harder to answer. The majority of people onsite are nice people who had no part in making the year difficult, and in some cases are only barely aware of what went on. I don't want to dump negativity on innocent bystanders, but I don't want to be dishonest, either. I feel like it was important for us to be here at this time, but I didn't really enjoy it, and I'm glad it's over.

I'm also unsure of how to respond to people who thank me for taking on the contract - it's known in the office that we've made some sacrifices to come here. Answering with "You're welcome" seems slightly arrogant, or at least lacking in proper humility - kind of like answering "I know" when someone says "I love you."  ;D

Suggestions for response? Flavours of beandip I can serve?

Slartibartfast

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 09:57:07 PM »
If they're just making conversation, I'd answer a question they didn't ask:

"How was your year?"

"Oh, we're just looking forward to getting home, you know?  I miss the dogs!"

If they're in a position to fix whatever it was that made your year less than ideal, though, I think it's fair to give a more honest answer - still vague, but giving them the chance to find out more if they're really motivated to do something about it.  "It was rougher than we expected because nobody really told us about the office structure here, but it was a learning experience" can either lead to "Oh, that's too bad - see the game last night?" (if they'd rather not discuss it) or "Wow, I didn't realize there was an issue there.  Is there something I can do?" (if they really care).

Psychopoesie

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2013, 10:41:40 PM »
What you may feel comfortable saying depends on why it's been so difficult/stressful and what, if any, positives you can honestly share. Some ideas:

It's been challenging to be so far from family and friends, although we've met some lovely people/made some grear new friends while we've been here.

We've learned a lot from the experience/it's been a real learning experience. (Only if there are a couple of polite or positive examples).

We're leaving with good memories of x, y and z.

Re the thanks for the sacrifice: we appreciated the opportunity to contribute/we valued the chance to come and make a difference/doing this was really important to us.

As for bean dip - future plans are good. Seeing the new baby, etc.

esposita

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2013, 10:46:24 PM »
For the "How was your year?" I think since its affiliated with religion, you could go the "It's been a growing experience for us" route. My husband and I recently had a tough year due to my health, and rather than focus on the negative when asked about it, I share that it brought him and me closer together, that it strengthened our faith... I can make the description of the actual "growing" or maturing or whatever you want to call it as long or as short as possible, depending on who I'm speaking to and in what setting.
As far as the Thank-you's, I'd practice graciously responding, "We were thankful for this opportunity." (Hopefully this is true, since if nothing else you are thankful for the opportunity of learning never to work there again?)
Basically, take the comments as what they are meant as, just small talk from people who don't know the whole situation and are meaning well. :-)

CuriousParty

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2013, 10:57:40 PM »
"You know, it's been such an intensive experience I think we'll need some time and distance to really process it all. We're looking forward to seeing the pups/cats/white cliffs of Dover!"
« Last Edit: September 12, 2013, 11:25:53 PM by CuriousParty »

doodlemor

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2013, 10:58:20 PM »
I like the use of the word "challenge" or "challenging" combined with "reward" or "rewarding."  You could say something like "It was a challenging year in many ways, but very rewarding to be able to do .................. for the people of this country."

I'm also unsure of how to respond to people who thank me for taking on the contract - it's known in the office that we've made some sacrifices to come here. Answering with "You're welcome" seems slightly arrogant, or at least lacking in proper humility - kind of like answering "I know" when someone says "I love you." 

In response to thanks you could say something like....."You are very kind.  We felt that it was important for us to be here at this time."  The last, of course, are your own words from the OP.

KenveeB

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2013, 11:00:30 PM »
"We've learned a lot, but it will be good to get back home!"

katycoo

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2013, 02:42:59 AM »
It's been a challenge but as much as we felt like it was and has been the right path for us to take, we're also feeling like this particular journey has come to an end and we're looking forward to getting back home.

JoyinVirginia

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2013, 07:07:06 AM »
It's been a challenge but as much as we felt like it was and has been the right path for us to take, we're also feeling like this particular journey has come to an end and we're looking forward to getting back home.
This sounds like an elegant solution. OP, you can embellish with as much our a little detail as you think appropriate for the person asking the question.

bopper

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2013, 09:24:48 AM »
"We have had many new experiences here but are looking forward to going home."


We spent 2 years in Germany. I had a great time, my older DD had a great time, but my younger DD hated it and couldn't wait to get back.  We explain what she didn't like but also try to come up with some things that she did enjoy.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 09:29:21 AM by bopper »

cwm

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2013, 10:38:47 AM »
Is there even one thing that you've enjoyed about this contract? The fact that you're doing work for your faith? Is your relationship with your husband any stronger? Did you get to avoid any major disasters back home while you were away? Focus on the positive when someone asks you how your year was, even if it's the tiniest thing. If they really want honest feedback, it won't come as a casual question, most likely.

If they thank you for taking the position, turn it back on them. "Thank you for having me here, it's been a life-changing experience."

nayberry

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2013, 11:20:41 AM »
"it's been a good learning experience for us both"

daen

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2013, 01:44:13 PM »
Thanks for all your responses.

If they're just making conversation, I'd answer a question they didn't ask:

"How was your year?"

"Oh, we're just looking forward to getting home, you know?  I miss the dogs!"

If they're in a position to fix whatever it was that made your year less than ideal, though, I think it's fair to give a more honest answer - still vague, but giving them the chance to find out more if they're really motivated to do something about it.  "It was rougher than we expected because nobody really told us about the office structure here, but it was a learning experience" can either lead to "Oh, that's too bad - see the game last night?" (if they'd rather not discuss it) or "Wow, I didn't realize there was an issue there.  Is there something I can do?" (if they really care).

We did give honest feedback to those in positions to make a difference, and it was dismissed. We've both given up on telling people what went wrong, because those that care don't have the power to change things, and those that have the power don't seem to care. (Short version: my husband's department shrank to a third of its size (due to employees leaving), without having its workload diminish at all. Even though TPTB had notice of most of the departures, there were at least two months with those positions empty. TPTB didn't seem to think it was an issue.)

I like katycoo's wording, but it seems a bit wordy to me - a bit much for small talk, if you know what I mean.

"We have had many new experiences here but are looking forward to going home."


We spent 2 years in Germany. I had a great time, my older DD had a great time, but my younger DD hated it and couldn't wait to get back.  We explain what she didn't like but also try to come up with some things that she did enjoy.

I like this - it's brief enough for small talk, and it sounds like the sort of thing I'd say. I can tweak it, depending on the audience: "We have had some good experiences/met wonderful people/appreciated the opportunity to serve/learned a lot... but are looking forward to going home."

Winterlight

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2013, 02:13:37 PM »
It's been a challenge but as much as we felt like it was and has been the right path for us to take, we're also feeling like this particular journey has come to an end and we're looking forward to getting back home.

Well put.
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
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Tea Drinker

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Re: Diplomatic responses about difficult year
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2013, 07:56:48 PM »
Another possible answer, for anyone there you actively like and/or would like to keep in touch with: "I met some great people here, including you, but I didn't realize how much I'd miss $hometown."
Any advice that requires the use of a time machine may safely be ignored.