Six Ways To Help Professional Intercultural Relationships Thrive

China is a developing economy with various economic opportunities for those who want to work for companies here in the states, and for foreigners who want to work in China.

Communication, new experiences, and working to understand cultural differences can take patience and time. However, this is where education takes shape. The more we know about each other, the easier we can understand, communicate and find success working together.

Paying attention to culture is important when it comes to making the most of China's work opportunities-whether here or in the states.

Gene Hsu, China Consultant, and Founder of EME Career Consultants shared some of his top tips to best improve communications between both cultures.

On Communication:

The greatest challenge for both sides is the alignment of values. Misalignment of values leads to a misalignment of expectations, which leads to talking over each other instead of collaborating. It is important to keep in mind that it is often quite difficult to interpret what the Chinese truly value.

Always focus more on listening! Listen in context and try to be empathic towards the individuals rather than the organizations.

On Goals:

Chinese can tend to talk long-term but care more about the immediate results and benefits. Always connect suggestions and proposals with both short-term and long-term benefits.

On Outcomes:

Take a step back; examine the foundational or fundamental goals that would be building blocks toward achieving the desired results. Focus on what is “controllable” and assume everything else is just part of the rules of the game.

Generally speaking, Americans can concentrate more on outcomes, while the Chinese can focus more on process and procedures. When there is fundamental misalignment concerning the nature of negotiations, both sides are not speaking a common language.

And Isaac Johnson-Tyas, Engagement Manager from 51Talk, shares his tips:

On Perspective:

Recognizing the positive side of everything that happens is a difficult skill, but helps reduce stress and manage conflict. When people from different cultures realize that they aren’t bothered when things go wrong, it helps to put them at ease because it reduces their worry of accidentally upsetting or offending anyone.

On Courtesy:

Courtesy is a cultural construction itself, but one that has some universal practices. Revere guests, serve others first and treat others as you would like them to treat you. Intercultural-it’s also a great topic of conversation.

For example, some interesting questions can include:

  • Why do you hold your cup with two hands?
  • What is the significance of bowing so low?
  • Why are you giving me that pen that I just complimented you for having?

All are simple questions, but the stories behind them often inspire people to reflect on their own traditions and start genuine conversations in the process.

Be Careful with Humor

“Lost in translation” is a common outcome of attempted intercultural humor. Since humor can be a hit or miss even between people of the same culture, there’s no guarantee that others will appreciate amusing comments.

Nevertheless, the strategy that I use most often here is concept-checking questions. Quite often, when people are speaking to others in a different language, many things can be misunderstood.

For example, “Shall we meet tonight at 6:00 PM for breakfast?”

Most people would say, “You mean for dinner, right?”

However, there will be some who say, “Okay.”

In that case, a good reply could be such as, “What time do you usually eat breakfast?”

Using this approach regularly will ensure that people listen carefully to what you say, and will discretely let you know when someone doesn’t understand much of what you’re saying. Even though these are just a few examples, it's important to keep things interesting, encourage traveling, and mix humor with courtesy and optimism.

These tips should help you to make the most memorable cultural journeys personally and professionally.

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