Speaking of India | Craig Storti

Summary of: Speaking of India: Bridging the Communication Gap When Working With Indians
By: Craig Storti


Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of cross-cultural communication in this summary of Craig Storti’s book ‘Speaking of India: Bridging the Communication Gap When Working With Indians’. Discover key cultural aspects that influence the way Indians and Westerners communicate in professional settings, such as the significance of saving face, attitudes towards authority, and the need to maintain harmonious relationships. Grasp the various communication styles at play and learn practical tips on how to better understand and navigate these differences to ensure successful collaboration between both sides.

Differences in Communication Between Indians and Westerners

The book emphasizes that while Indians and Westerners have distinct cultures, Western cultures tend to share certain traits and differ from Indian culture in many of the same ways. However, India itself is a diverse country with vital differences between its regions, religions, and urban and rural areas. Indians who’ve worked in the West differ from those who haven’t, but there are still clear distinctions in communication styles that affect business. Westerners seek to exchange information while Indians prioritize preserving and strengthening personal bonds. These conflicting priorities, combined with implicit assumptions about what is considered normal or right, can lead to misunderstandings and broken commitments between the two cultures. The book concludes by highlighting that successful ventures in India often occur despite these cultural differences.

Saving Face in Indian Business Culture

In Indian culture, group harmony and saving face are crucial aspects of communication, which can impact business interactions. Indians avoid negative feedback, admitting errors, and disagreeing with senior members. Instead, they say what others want to hear through implication or omission. Westerners, on the other hand, value individualism and tend to prioritize getting the job done over group harmony. Understanding these cultural differences is important for successful cross-cultural communication in business.

Understanding Indian Communication

In India, the word “yes” has many different meanings, making it difficult for Westerners to fully understand Indian communication. “Yes” can simply mean “I hear you,” and context is key in determining its true meaning. Additionally, Indians have a hard time saying “no” directly, often using polite language to express their disagreement. This can create misunderstandings, as Westerners may interpret a non-committal response as agreement. In a business context, this can be especially problematic, leading to frustrated expectations and confusion. Westerners can avoid these misunderstandings by listening carefully to the entire statement and taking context into account. Understanding these cultural differences is crucial for effective communication in cross-cultural contexts.

Understanding Indian Communication

The ability to understand Indian communication is vital to effectively do business with Indian colleagues. Indians don’t often say “no” directly, signaling it through a series of indirect cues in their body language, such as wobbling their head from side to side. Similarly, they may not overtly criticize a suggestion, prolonging their silence or simply ignoring it and providing an alternative. Westerners should be patient and open in their communications, seeking feedback and using confirmation emails to clarify understandings. It’s also important to establish early warning systems for potential schedule issues and providing encouragement to move towards clearer communication.

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