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Cross-Cultural Communication Skills: 3 things that can confuse your colleagues

Western people and people from the east have a lot in common. However, there are important differences and it's useful to understand how these difference affect business relationships.

Let's look at four things that probably confuse your western colleagues working in Asia.

Number 1: Asking questions

Western employees are expected to ask questions even if those questions challenge their superior's ideas, opinions or instructions. Asians employees, on the other hand, feel embarrassed or unwilling to ask questions because it might seem that they are challenging their manager.  

Your western colleague might be confused when eastern colleagues don't ask questions to clarify their concerns.

Number 2: Solving Problems

Westerners have a direct approach when solving problems. While westerners take care not to anger or hurt the feelings of friends or family, in business situations, they think that problems should be solved directly and quickly even if the solution hurts the feelings of colleagues.

Asians put much more importance on the feelings of others and spend a lot of time talking and figuring out how to solve the problem without offending anyone.

This will confuse your western colleague, who won't understand why Asians just don't solve problems directly.

Number 3: Dealing with Authority

Although management styles can be very different, a successful western manager often thinks of herself as a part of a team. She is just in charge because she has more skill or experience.

Traditional Asian managers see themselves as father figures to their employees. They guide and support their employees and expect loyalty and obedience in return. They don't see themselves as part of a team, but rather the leader who should be obeyed. A westerner used to working with a western manager might find this kind of relationship with a boss confusing.

If you work with a western colleague, perhaps you can take time to explain these differences so he or she understands your thinking.


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