A lesson on cross cultural communication- an interview with Dr. Jeanne Boden
Written by Juliette Pitt
We’ve written a lot of articles about doing business in or with China, and we thought that a better way we could gain further insight and understanding was to interview an expert.
We spoke to Dr. Jeanne Boden a Belgian Sinologist who has over 30 years’ experience advising multinationals active in and within China.
Dr. Jeanne Boden owns two organizations ChinaConduct (set up in 2000) and Cultural Quantum (set up in 2016). Later this year the two will merge together.
Over the years she has developed her own method for cross-cultural training and has published her textbook called Cultural Quantum. A Practical Method for Efficient Cross-Cultural Cooperation. She has been using the method for 5 years in workshops both in companies and universities and it is has proven to work really well. Please feel free to check her online academy here: https://www.culturalquantum.academy/ for more information.
#Our Interview with Dr. Jeanne Boden
1) We did a series of articles on doing business in China, what would be your main advice for foreigners so as to avoid any cultural clashes?
Every culture has its own logic. One of the crucial things to avoid any cultural clashes is to have open communication! It is important to reflect on your own logic.
Successful cross-cultural cooperation requires a common framework. It is not enough to be aware of cultural differences and systemic differences: we need practical tools and guidelines for managing cross-cultural cooperation.
2) How has your training method helped towards cross cultural communication?
To enable cross-cultural communication, I have developed a 5-step method that is: 1) Awareness; 2) Working across systemic differences; 3) Cultural Quantum Self Assessment; 4) Defining and negotiating a common framework & 5) Developing strategies.
The method helps people to think beyond their own frame of reference and enables them to effectively communicate and cooperate in complex cross-cultural environments. It is important for companies to really understand each other and develop a common ground. The method works well, and the positive results of the method surface quickly.
3) From your experience, what do you think is the most important Chinese cultural lessons that foreigners should take time to learn?
People should take time to learn the context in which you work in. In cooperating with the Chinese, one should be flexible and pragmatic. Everything changes constantly in China and so one needs to learn to work with flexibility.
Another is the Chinese language. It is naive to think that you can work in China without learning the language. You need to learn the language to learn about each other’s organization and background, a simple translation in English is not enough. Knowledge of the language is crucial as it lets you
further your understanding of the Chinese culture. Indeed, it can help further develop communication as the Chinese will also appreciate you more as you taken your time to learn the language.
4) Quite a number of businesses fail to enter or adapt to the Chinese market, from your experience why do you think this is so?
There are many hurdles. For instance, the different systems and political interferences. In China, politics and business are mixed, and a lot of Western businesses are not aware of this and do not recognize its importance. And so, they tend to have expectations from the wrong people.
Another is the lack of importance given to the language and connecting with the Chinese. These are two very important hurdles that I often find businesses fail to comprehend.
5) Do you have any advice for our students on how to speak Chinese fluently?
My main advice would be is to get Chinese friends. By making friends you can further your knowledge of the language and practice with them.
Another piece of advice would be to be persistent and determined. If you make an effort to practice the language everyday, then you can further connect with the language, and it will become easier to be fluent.
There is no end to learning Chinese, it is a continual learning process. Chinese culture is embedded in the language and if you really enjoy the language then it will slowly become an enjoyment. My message is not to give up!
We would like to thank Dr. Jeanne Boden for her time and insight into cross cultural communication. If you would like to learn more about Jeanne Boden, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.
We hope this blog has provided you with more insight into the topic of doing business in China. If you have enjoyed the style of this article, please feel free to comment below and perhaps suggest an expert we can try to interview to share more interesting stories and insights into China.