Making a breakthrough in China requires careful planning and preparation on a logistical level. It also involves overcoming various challenges that accompany starting a business venture. Fortunately, the two cultures are not entirely different—we all share common ground. Having diverse and sometimes divergent backgrounds only helps to reinforce common values, attitudes or personality traits. In China, amplifying these four sought-after personality traits can be a stepping-stone to success.
- Showing Humility:
While in the West humility is often valued, in the East it carries far more social currency. The Chinese are reticent to do business with someone who is looking down or preaching to them. They are generally proud of their progress and want to see it respected. Being humble is one way to demonstrate respect.
- Being Able To Give Praise:
It goes without saying that if the Chinese are proud of their progress they also enjoy having it recognized. For years, China has faced criticism in many forums., The Chinese, however, see both the good and the bad and welcome an opportunity to celebrate their country. Economic advancements in China today mean that poverty is declining and infrastructure is gaining ground at an incredible rate; these are good subjects to broach. Many Chinese are aware that: “China [has] dominated the fight against global hunger, accounting for about two thirds of the reduction in hungry people in developing regions in the past 25 years.” This, then, is an excellent topic to broach to show appreciation for Chinese progress.
- Having Excellent Listening Skills:
A good listener is prized the world over, but perhaps this character trait is even more appealing when conducting business across languages and cultures. In order to be a good listener, one must know what is being discussed. Hiring a good interpreter should be a number one priority. The interpreter should know that all communication should be translated verbatim. This may mean paying a higher fee, but in many cases the difference between knowing the meaning of the conversation versus exactly what was said is vital to understanding.
- Exercising Caution:
“Tread lightly” might be a good motto to follow while in China. The Chinese are famous for their ability to pay compliments; it’s important to engage in the banter and offer compliments as well, but one should not be moved by pride. Just because something is said doesn’t mean it is true; it’s the responsibility of every businessperson to discern the truth without losing face or causing anyone else to lose face either. Part of exercising caution means staying humble, focussed, and attentive at all times when conducting business.
Fortunately for Western businesspeople, many of these core characteristics that are so desirable in China are also appealing in the West. While behaviours and attitudes must be adapted to match the setting, the values both cultures share overlap more than some might expect. The secret to success in China might not be to reinvent oneself entirely, but rather to highlight selectively the ways in which one’s own culture and personality align with the professional climate of China today.