- Indirect Communication: As an extension of the need to maintain harmonious relations, the Chinese rely heavily on indirect communication. They rely less on words and are more attentive to posture, expression and tone of voice to draw meaning. Speech is ambiguous, often understating their point. The purpose of this is to maintain harmony throughout the conversation and prevent a loss of face on either end of the exchange. The best way of navigating this rhetoric to find the underlying meaning is to check for clarification several times.
- Refusals: A Chinese person’s preoccupation with saving face and politeness means they will seldom give a direct ‘no’ or negative response, even when they do not agree with you. Therefore, focus on hints of hesitation. Listen closely to what they say, but also pay careful attention to what they don’t say and double check your understanding.
- Laughter: When relaying bad news, a Chinese person may smile and laugh to diffuse the uncomfortable situation.
- Voice: In China, men generally speak louder than women. When a woman talks loudly, she is considered to have bad manners.
- Silence: Silence is an important and purposeful tool used in Asian communication. Pausing before giving a response indicates that someone has applied appropriate thought and consideration to the question. This signifies politeness and respect.
- Physical Contact: The Chinese do not touch people that are strangers to them unless it is unavoidable (i.e. in a crowd). Avoid hugging, back-slapping or putting your arm around someone's shoulder unless you know them well.
- Pointing: The Chinese point with their whole open hand instead of their index finger.
- Beckoning: Beckoning is done by facing the palm of one’s hand to the ground and waving one’s fingers towards oneself.
- Feet: Displaying the soles of one’s feet is considered rude.
- Whistling: Whistling is considered rude.
- Waving: ‘No’ may be indicated by waving the hand in front of one’s face.
- Body Language: Shrugging shoulders and winking are both gestures that are not always understood by Chinese people.