‘Inshallah’ is a very commonly used and abused term in the Arabic vocabulary. By definition it means ‘God willing’ and is meant as a positive affirmation. But if you are an Arab or have been around Arabs, even for a short while, you’d probably be able to recognize the underlying meanings of the term.
In your day to day life, the ‘Inshallah culture’ may not seem that significant. But when it comes of professional settings, the misuse of Inshallah can often times prove costly and just plain frustrating.
Here are a few quite common implications of the Inshallah culture and how you can work around them:
1. Unclear expectations
Person A: “So we need someone to help with the editing. Would you be able to?”
Person B: “Inshallah, I may be able to.”
Is that a yes? Is that a no? Nobody knows. The most annoying thing about the ambiguous use of Inshallah when it comes to work is that fact that expectations remain unclear. Inshallah is generally used as a shield to avoid responsibility and accountability as it is not an affirmation or but merely used as a suggestion.
The best way to overcome this conundrum is to not take Inshallah as answer. Ask many questions and clarifications as needed to have people accept their responsibilities. Another way to turn it around is to repeat what they said as yes/no question. For example: “Then you WILL be working on it, right?”. Close ended questions tend to limit the probability to an ‘Inshallah answer’.
2. Unkept promises/deadlines
Another negative effect of the Inshallah syndrome is the many missed deadlines and unkept promises. First off, ‘Inshallah tomorrow’ or ‘Inshallah insert time’ is not a proper measure of time and it leaves things vague and thus unmeasurable. How many times have you worked with people on Inshallah deadlines, only for it all to end up in chaos and confusion? To avoid this, always make it a point to double check and set clear and defined deadlines that everyone agreed on and if needed reconfirm. Following up with people on their promises is also very important to ensure that your work or request does not get lost in the Inshallah black hole never to be heard of again.
3. A nicer word for NO
Often times in our culture saying No may seem rude and simply not nice, so to avoid the social unpleasantness, people may tend to use Inshallah as a filler to avoid saying a flat out No. For instance, that all those times your parents said Inshallah when you asked for some expensive gadgets. But in professional situations, this tendency can be very confusing. When you ask someone for something and they reply with an Inshallah, without any specifics as to how and when, it would be very helpful to ask them follow up questions to see whether or tend they mean to just say No. Yes, it be awkward but ultimately it would save you both the time and effort of beating around the bush.
Working around the ‘Inshallah culture’ may be confusing at first, but once you start to identify its various meanings and connotations and learn to work around them, you’d master the art.