When asking for a “yes” or “no” response on a call with people from different cultures … do you find a “yes” is followed by behavior that really means “no”, such as not delivering as promised? How about showing up for a meeting in Africa and the other party isn’t there? Do you find your “American” style of communication is not working?
A New York Times article, “How to Deal With a Foreign Colleague Who Can’t Say No” identifies the cultural differences that must be understood to bridge the remote communication gap.
Some interesting points from the article:
-In many cultures, saying “no” is seen as rude … so people say “yes” when they mean “no”.
-If you are in Japan and ask if there are any questions, you need to look into their eyes to see if they have a question.
-You may feel its helpful to remain calm when asked a challenging and emotional question, however, in the Middle East it will signal a lack of trust or authenticity.
-Many cultures do not have the same reverence for time and schedules as those of us in Europe or the USA.
-In many cultures, you need to give a significant amount of context for your message for it to be trusted, or even understood.
The author of the article, Kara Alaimo, has a book that is pending release regarding how to deal with public relations in 30 countries around the world. She has done work for the Obama Administration and the United Nations.