Putulu Payer: Thursday in Congo

Last night in a meeting of the team that is assembled for deciding how to disseminate coaching in Congo, (which is about half of the trainees), the trainees decided that it would be best to proceed slowly with the idea. I was relieved. They’re starting to catch on, but translation issues and cultural alike have put us in a position to move quite slowly.

This morning I put on my new Congolese shirt, a “wax” or a shirt made with colorful material used for making ladies’ pagnes and men’s shirts. So as Leonard went by our room after brushing his teeth, he said “Putulu” a Lingala word which which means something akin to “lookin good man!” and when Charles laughed, Leonard said “payer!” (The French verb ‘to pay’) which means “lookin’ good … now gimme a buck for saying so!” At breakfast I went over to Leonard and said “Brother Leonard, because you said Putulu to me now I must pay you!” And so I slapped down a 500 franc note (fifty cents). That got me a huge laugh from the entire table that was worth the money I spent to make people laugh.

During a discussion on the difference between authentic encouragement vs. flattery this morning, the Putulu Payer concept came up again. I said, “Isn’t Putulu Payer basically a flattery?” And they said NO NO! You can say Putulu and really mean it! But if you add Payer, then it’s flattery!

There’s a fine line between an authentic compliment for encouragement and a flattery, and yet flattery is easy to spot: what do you stand to gain? If you stand to gain something, there’s a good chance you’re saying PAYER to your friend.


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The author lives in Goshen, Indiana with his wife and four children. He is self-employed as a leadership coach working with business executives, writers and other artists, and spiritual leaders. His clients enjoy business growth, increased vision and purpose, work/family lifestyle balance, and freedom from writer’s block.

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