Nov 11, 2011

I say tomato, you say tomato

I've had to have meetings today to raise two issues -  perhaps that's why I'm being so contemplative about culture. My communication skills aren't exactly tuned right.

To Chinese, 'face' is integral to communication. I know this has been critized for being an inefficient way of doing things. But it's also about manners, and taking care of the dignity of the other person. In the Chinese concept of face, the ego is a fragile thing, and issues are tip-toed around.

The Western culture has little concept about face. But when when a Westerner makes a point, it's largely about that point. To a Chinese, any criticism, the breaking of the 'face', extends to the entire being.

It's a similar case with social groups. I remember doing a course on cross-cultural communication while in college, and it described the layers people have, like an onion. In the Western context (Western being used broadly here of course), people are divided into several social groups (stranger you meet on the road, acquantaince, bowling buddies, colleagues) and are largely kept within these groups. It's easy to penetrate one layer, the study said, but entrance into one layer doesn't mean acceptance into all. Asians appear cold, because it's not easy to penetrate the surface, but when accepted into the social group, all layers of the onion are open. You're almost family.

Anyway, am digressing. Aussie culture encourages you to stand up for yourself and make yourself heard when you have an issue. While I'm attempting to do this, I realise I'm still usng my long-winded face-saving speech mannerisms. I really need to learn to be more direct.

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