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Intercultural insights: part 1

November 13, 2009

I thought I’d start sharing with you a few practical insights my (New Zealand) clients have taken away from recent workshops on Understanding Chinese Culture for Business Success.

problem:  How to deliver “difficult” messages?   In any business relationship there comes a time when something doesn’t quite go as planned …

some cultural background: The concept of “face” and the idea that you can “lose face” when disrespected, particularly in front of others is still very dominant in China.

That’s one of the cultural roots for some of the indirectness you will experience in China. –  A simple ‘no’, or ‘that doesn’t work’ is avoided when possible. There will be a way of conveying the negative, “difficult” message in a different, non-direct way.

practical learning:  Keep this in mind when communicating with your Chinese business partner.  Think about how your message could be delivered so your business partner can “safe face”; don’t say ‘the quality of your products is not good enough for us”; try “we’ve been in a long-term relationship for years. This is really important to us” =  Giving face – and,  “we’ve had (3rd party) feedback saying ….” .  Talk to the right person and try to catch her or him alone or just with the interpreter, not in front of her/his boss or junior staff.

Also, be prepared to receive “difficult” messages in a non-direct, “face saving” way.

I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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