A tip I read in an online article about Chinese business culture describes the need to save face in negotiations. A slower, hushed conversational pace and sense of reverence is congruent in a typical Chinese boardroom. The slow pace and mutual respect helps build trust for what will usually be viewed as a long term business relationship.
Differences between nations are reconciled with diplomats and skilled foreign dignitaries. Being diplomatic and painfully respectful as part of the first impression you make sets a positive mood and encourages a spirit of cooperation. Cultural differences are not limited to nationality but are just as much about language, age, cultural and class. The fastest way to work through differences that could be prohibitive to progress is to start off with sincere politeness towards your new acquaintance.
In circumstances where I have met first generation Chinese business owners the difference in their attitude versus the younger family members is noticeable. When handing a business card to someone who is first generation Chinese, you must use both hands to present it. Do not casually offer it with one hand. This simple attention to detail will be appreciated and count towards building rapport.
Try and anticipate who your audience before going into a meeting. There is a quote from How to Win Friends and Influence People that goes something like, "I would rather pace the sidewalk for two hours outside the office of the person I was going to meet than enter their office within 10 minutes not knowing what i was going to say".
Before approaching someone of another culture think about who you’re dealing with. How might they conduct themselves in business and how do they feel about sales people? How do you come across? To quote the wise Chinese with one of their proverbs, “Softly softly catchy monkey."
- Read up on business in foreign cultures. This extra effort might just give you the edge over the competition.
- Alan Sugar's autobiography What You See Is What You Get recalls amusing encounters with one "Emperor Otake", the boss of a Japanese manufacturing plant during the 1980's. Otake's behaviour and need to save face both amused and irritated "Sugar-San" in a clash of Eastern and Western business values.It sounds like the business equivalent of the film "Rush Hour"...