How Chinese Communicate

Communicating with others is a nightmare. It's already challenging enough to communicate with someone in their or your first language; adding a second language to the mix just makes things more complicated for both parties. Anyone who has spent more than a minute working in China has seen a colleague who, while utterly missing the point, nods in response to a question because they are too proud to acknowledge their English is lacking.

Talk plainly and slowly.

Although it may seem apparent, many Westerners working in China fail to adapt their speech patterns and pace when interacting with their Chinese coworkers. If you want to get along with your Chinese employees, it's best not to chat to them as you would with your pals at a bar.

Notate it

As was said up above, a Chinese speaker's strongest points in English are often their reading comprehension and command of the grammatical rules. This implies that your coworkers will probably have an easier time comprehending and responding to your emails and messages. And if there are any misunderstandings, they may always resort to the aid of machine translation. You may even include illustrations to illustrate your points if that would help.

Sending all of your inquiries and requests to your Chinese coworkers in writing can improve your contact with them and provide a paper trail. If a dispute emerges down the road and it's unclear who's at blame, you'll have proof of exactly what was said and done.

Use cross-cultural references to your advantage

The usage of historical allusions and cultural references in language is widespread because of the common ground they help establish when conveying otherwise difficult concepts. You may find it easier to communicate with a Chinese colleague, even if you're just communicating in English, by learning more about Chinese culture, history, and the idioms common to your two nations.

Learning a few common idioms familiar to both Chinese and English speakers can expedite communication in the workplace and make coworkers more hospitable to you in general. Some English phrases have made their way into Chinese and vice versa, such as "All roads lead to Rome" and "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach."

A lack of attention to protocol is to be expected.

Although "cultural shock" is often thrown about in discussions of doing business in China, few people have a firm understanding on how insidiously it may emerge. What I mean by "culture shock" is when someone becomes upset or surprised because they have breached norms that the other person was unaware of. The different meanings of "please" and "thank you" in Chinese and English are a good illustration of this.

Most native English speakers learn early on that they should always preface their requests with a polite "please" and "thank you." Consequently, you could be taken aback if a Chinese colleague suddenly demands, "Sit down and input your password."

You may want to scream, "I'm not your employer!" at first.

and turn over a table. You should know that the Chinese terms like please and thank you are not used nearly as often as their English counterparts. In English, a request that assumes the recipient is not engaged in any particularly strenuous activity is translated as a straightforward order. Many of your Chinese employees will be doing mental translations from Chinese to English without considering factors like politeness.

Therefore, you should take the direct comments of your Chinese coworkers with a pinch of salt in order to prevent misunderstandings in the workplace. If they say anything that would be deemed disrespectful in your country, try to see it from their perspective.

Do you have any additional suggestions for improving business communication in China?

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