Case 01: India, Yes or No, Discussion
1. Including the silences, Kumar signaled “no” five times in that short conversation. The first time he explained his staffing problem, an indirect way of saying no. His pauses were another way of indicating no. The last time Kumar said, “Yes, yes,” but by adding “…we will do our best” he actually signaled “no.” This case illustrates the confusion that may arise in a telephone dialog involving low-context and high-context speakers.
2. Poor Mogens. No chance.
3. This is the most important question in the case. Decades of business experience with Indians shows that Westerners need to spend as much time as possible in India, and vice-versa. Mogens should bring Kumar and key colleagues to Denmark on orientation and training assignments for as long as visa regulations allow. If Kumar is the right person to be team leader in Noida he will soon become accustomed to the strange custom northern European have of saying exactly what they think – including “no.” After immersion in a low-context, direct communication for weeks or months Kumar may even learn to say no to his Danish project leader, thus……………….
Additional learning point: What if this conversation had been on Skype or by teleconferencing? Would Kumar’s facial expressions and his head-shaking have made it easier for Mogens to understand that his Indian counterpart really meant “no”?