If You Want To Be Understood, Ask Open Ended Questions!
When communicating in a language other than your native language, people have a tendency to say yes when asked a question, even if they don't understand what was asked.
This is even true when they are asked, "Do you understand?"
The next time you are interacting cross-culturally, ask an open-ended question such as, "Can you tell me what you need to do next?" instead of "Do you understand?" If the person is unable to answer what they need to do, then you know that you need to explain further.
Thriving in Foreign Cultures
Insights: Direct vs. Indirect Communication Styles
Below are a few examples of direct and indirect communication styles and how you can better understand them.
#1 Practice speaking indirectly
Insight: The direct way of communicating may strike some listeners as too harsh.
This exercise gives you a chance to practice the skill of indirect communication. You are presented with a few direct statements. Try to rephrase them to make them indirect. The first phrase is decoded for you.
#2 Practice decoding indirect communication
Insight: The actual meaning of words may not be what an indirect communicator is saying.
This exercise is the opposite of the one above. Here, you are presented with a few indirect statements and asked to decode them. The first statement has been done for you. (Right side is what they are saying; the left side is what they really mean).
Answers: #1 Practice speaking indirectly: 2. I don't agree - translates to: I have another idea. What do you think of this idea? May I make a suggestion? 3. I think we should - can mean: I have a possible suggestion. What do you think of this? Perhaps we could do.....
Answers: #2 Practice decoding indirect communication: - 2. We will try our Best. - could mean: Don't expect much to happen. Not now, maybe later. It may never happen. 3. This topic deserves further consideration. - may actually mean: We don't want to talk about this now. We need to consult with other people. We don't agree.
Understanding the subtle meaning of messages are sometimes more important than the words being used.
The following illustrate how crucial cultural awareness is in international business: