Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Ambiguity in Chinese Meetins- What Did The Manager Really Mean?

Posted by w_thames_the_d on April 15, 2011

After suffering through a Chinese meeting with my friends new Chinese start-up, I marvel at the ability of the locals to understand the ambiguity and lack of direction offered by the local leaders. “It is cultural” I have been told. “Historically the minions were supposed to guess or divine what the emperor wanted.”
“and if they couldn’t?” i muse
“I don’t know, maybe they were punished or killed.” i was told.
Ok i can feel you. Apparently for thousands of years the whims of the emperors were not lstated per se, but were something that the commoner was supposed to predict. This cultural phenomenon is alive and well as most come to find out when they come to China. Whereas in the west we tend to clump the important information at the beginning of a sentence or paragraph and the leader leaves little doubt as to what they require, the same is definitely not true in China.
I have asked my colleagues about such things and have been told it is nothing less than a Chinese peculiarity. When I ask how they know specifically what the leader wants, I am told that they usually do not. Although you can guess what they want, it is oftentimes less than obvious.

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