Asian business communication style: What to know

Introduction

Remember what I mentioned in the first and second blogs about the cultural differences between Asian and Western countries as well as the family cultural values. The differences in culture cannot be seen only in daily activities, but in business activities as well. Therefore, business is the scope where the culture in action can be observed clearly. The business practices are formed in term of cultural attitudes toward work, power, trust, wealth and communication (Hooker, 2008). Communication is defined as the message and/or information which are delivered from the sender to the receiver. In business, communication contributes to the process through which goods and services are created and exchanged. Thus, this blog focuses on the communication style in Asian business. The Asia region contributes 60% of the world’s current population (World Population Review, 2016). Therefore, this region also provides a large amount of labor force which attracts many Western companies come to do business.  In my opinion, Western companies who have different cultures should know about this communication style in order to avoid misunderstanding or misjudging in business activities.

Language barrier

The first aspect that is related to communication is about language. Almost Asian countries have their own language systems in term of tone, writing letters, etc. Moreover, English is the most-used language in business; however, not all Asian countries use it fluently. This barrier will lead to the difficulty in communication and misunderstanding. Therefore, it is required to know about the language of the country where you are going to do business, especially when you do business in China, Japan, Korea or Thailand, etc. where people do not use alphabet letters in their language. Even you can speak Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, it is still difficult to do business without the support of a translator or interpreter. It is happening because the English level in these countries is not fluent enough.

Indirectness

Almost all of the Asian countries have an indirect style of communication. According to Asian people, it is hard to say no. People think that saying no will cause the loss of face as well as the embarrassment. Therefore, instead of saying no, they use the phrases “Yes, probably” or “I can do but it might be difficult”. Moreover, when you hear these phrases, that mean no, they cannot do and the work cannot be done. According to Asian people, these phrases help them to avoid the embarrassment and the loss of face. In addition, the communication will take longer because Asian people do not usually go directly to the issue or important things.

Power distance

According to Hofstede’s dimensions, Asian countries get high score regarding to power distance aspect. That means they focus on the hierarchical order and centralization. Asian people respect the hierarchical relationship which is related to the person’s status, title and position in an organization. The employee is not expected to object against or challenge the manager. Moreover, the manager is supposed to be the person who makes the decisions at the end. Therefore, Western business men must aware these differences as well as adjust them in the business in order to create the successful outcomes.

Nonverbal communication styles

Greeting

In the past, women had lower position than men. Therefore, women do not usually shake hands with men or even with each other. It might be careful about shaking hands when you meet and do business with women clients. Secondly, a lot of Asian countries use greeting which is “a joining of hands, rise up to the chest, and head bowed slightly”. Thus, understanding and using it in the communication will show your respects about their culture. It will help to build and strengthen the relationship with Asian companies. Furthermore, it also helps you to avoid time-waste because it takes time to do business until Asian people get to know you well. Thirdly, Asian culture does not accept or feel fine when they are touched by strangers. Especially, touching people’s head is very rude and inappropriate. Asian people think that the head is where the soul or spirit resides. Therefore, you should not touch the Asian people’s head.

Eye-to-eye contact

Asian people do not do eye-to-eye contact with strangers or even with other Asian people. To them, it is so shameful and rude. They prefer and feel more comfortable with fleeting eye contact. It will cause the confusion to the Western people because in their opinion, eye-to-eye contact is mean that people listen carefully and understanding. Therefore, Western people should not do eye-to-eye contact with Asian clients.

Impassiveness

Emotional restraint is put high value by Asians since they think it will show more politeness. This will lead to the lack of using body language as well as the lack of responsiveness and emotion under the view of Western people. It is the proof of cultural differences. Asians do not use more body language, but it does not mean that they do not understand or have reactions. Therefore, Western people should not show much casual manner in order to avoid the rudeness and avoid making Asian people feel uncomfortable.

Verbal communication styles

As it was mentioned above, Asian people focus on the face. The face is what they show to communities, this is all their values. Hence, they do not want to have the loss of face. Therefore, in communication, the verbal, non-aggressive style is unexpected and inappropriate. Western people should recognize it in order to encourage alternative styles of relating.

Moreover, Asians tend to avoid disagreement, disrespect, frustration or even anger. Thus, when it comes to one of these things, Asian will have indirect smile as well as they will show reluctant smile. Therefore, you should aware as well as should not raise the conflict situations or strong feelings in order to avoid the depress feelings of Asian clients.

Conclusion

Asian countries and Western countries have different culture. Therefore, there are also different styles in business communication. Business is the collaborative activity which can be used to observe the differences of culture in action. Therefore, communication style of business was mentioned in this blog in order to give and overview about what the Western people should know when coming to Asian countries to do business. The barrier in language was seen as the first thing that Western people should prepare before doing business in Asia. Most of Asian countries do not use English fluently, thus they prefer their business partners speak their language or at least have a translator or interpreter. The second thing is the power distance which is related to hierarchical order and centralization. It will help to know about how the Asian organization builds the organization structure and order. Next, Western people should aware the differences in non-verbal communication styles which consist of greeting, eye-to-eye contact and impassiveness. For example, should not offer the hand first to women clients, do not touch strangers, especially their head, do not make too much eye-to-eye contact and do not judge their lack of body language. Last but not least, the verbal communication styles should be cautioned as well. These styles show that this should avoid verbally, non-aggressive style as well as conflict situations or strong feelings.

Therefore, “When in Rome, do as Romans do”

Source:

Hooker, J. (2008). Cultural differences in business communication. Retrieved from http://web.tepper.cmu.edu/jnh/businessCommunication.pdf

Vivanco, I. (n.d.). Cultural values and behaviors [PowerPoint Presentation]. Retrieved from http://www.ws-ohc.org/documents/ppt/Cultural%20Values%20%20Behaviors.pdf

 

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