Although I am Middle East based OD consultant, I do lot of my work in Asia and the US.
The goal of this post is to compare the challenges I face communicating in the different environments.
Although today at the ripe old age of 66, I am very proficient in communicating with various populations in Asia, this proficiency was not easily acquired. Here are some brief highlights of the major communication lessons I have learnt.
- Khun Som from Bangkok taught me just how much content can be communicated by evasiveness.
- Mitsumi from Osaka taught me that in some instances, it takes years to formulate an answer and in the meantime, it is best to be silent.
- Emma from Malaysia and Felipe from the Philippines have taught me that it is far better not to talk about certain things…so that communication can continue.
- Hsiao from Shanghai explained to me how `lying “can be very truthful.
- Sivan from Tel Aiv taught me that when she stops arguing with me, she no longer cares.
My Asian clients always understood how different I am and never tried to convert me. We almost thrive on our difficulty to communicate!
- It is possible to do business without a deep personal relationship using a contract used to hedge lack of initial trust. This setup enables expediency of communication. And it is critical to be expedient so as not to waste time. Expediency is an acquired skill for the non westerner.
- The emphasis of expediency (which enables speed and a competitive edge) leads to view conflicts as something to be solved.
- An American generally will expect the other side to adapt him/her self because there is one right way of communicating, our way. Once people “develop” and transcend hang ups, we can communicate, our way.
My background and values are somewhat more western than eastern, and I feel the western style of communication comes is more “natural” for me.
However, I feel more comfortable communicating in Asia because I feel that there is an enhanced awareness of the acutely diverse assumptions about communication, and less attempt to impose one style.