The modern world is erasing the borders between eastern and western cultures more and more. The collaborations are not limited to one continent anymore, and with every month, it becomes more crucial to know how to communicate, grow and develop with people from other cultures. Some of the things that are praised in one country might be extremely rude in another, and contemporary leaders need to know how to be able to build a dialog and combine Western professionalism with the cultures of the Eastern societies.
Preeti Chaudhary is originally from India and has lived and worked in China for a while. Now she’s working globally with startups as a mentor and as an advisory board member focusing a lot on diversity and inclusion.
Preeti first came to the idea of helping to bridge the two cultures about 18 years ago. She was traveling a lot, spoke multiple languages, hopped between continents, and put all of her experiences from the travels into this bridging. Getting more involved with the people helped her realize that, despite potential huge differences in traditions, one of the most pronounced differences can be seen when looking at the way people in Asian cultures spend their time – it’s more relaxed and less rushed. Preeti explains that this happens because for people in Eastern cultures extended family is extremely important, they communicate with them quite a lot, and therefore they are by default more predisposed to work with different types of personalities. When you marry the professionalism from the west in the systems, processes, and the timekeeping and all the rest from the East, you have a perfect case scenario.
When Preeti started trying to bridge the two worlds, the issue she saw people struggling with the most was not being able to understand each other’s values. So Preeti started looking for reasons, why people from two different groups should work together, what can they learn from each other, and what kind of conversations they can have. When people started talking to each other, they started getting to know each other on a deeper level, as a person, as a culture, as the habits, as the nuances. This sort of exchange of thoughts and experiences helps the other make this bridge between the cultures.
One of the ways to improve the communication between people from different cultures is to work on both verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Some gestures might mean completely different things in the Eastern world than they do in the Western, so Preeti suggests being as articulate and precise as possible. Many Asians speak incredibly good English, but the bridging should happen on the level of nuances: show with your body and with your word choice as much as you can to get the message through.
Choosing the right words can be extremely difficult even for the native speaker if they are in chaos. Pretty emphasizes the importance of being in touch with yourself and understanding yourself first, to know who you are and how you communicate. Relying on validations of others towards ourselves is important, but we all have so much fear of missing out or being judged, that we often don’t even know who we are anymore. We need to learn to validate ourselves, before moving on to trying and establishing communications with others.
If you are interested in learning more about how cultural differences can be used as leverage to bring up your business, and how to create a proper context for people to learn from each other, listen to the whole episode of the Genius Leadership podcast with Preeti here.
Stay tuned and be genius!