Is it not natural to say “I don’t understand”?


Many Western managers are truly shocked when Asian and Mid Eastern  folks feign understanding. “Now what’s the big  deal to say “I don’t understand”. Why do I have to figure out that I am being misunderstood?”, asks many a Western-educated boss.

There are many reasons why it is not universally accepted practice to admit lack of understanding. Here are the top 6.

1) Showing lack of understanding needs a context of trust. If I do not feel safe, I need to keep my guard up.

2) Showing lack of understanding shows weakness, and in the business world world, weak people get screwed.

3) It is not my role to say I do not understand. It is my boss’ role to ensure that I understand, and he needs to do so with compassion.

4) My peers may make fun of me if I ask a question of understanding, because they think I am showing off.

5) My accent makes me shy.

6) I feel deep embarrassment admitting limitations of any time publically due to face saving needs.

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