Resource for positive phrases.?

Subject: Resource for positive phrases.?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: julie -dot- harrison -at- holset -dot- com, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2006 09:34:14 -0400

Julie Harrison wonders: <<Does anyone know of a good reference for swapping negative phrase for more positive ones?>>

Best reference of all: an editor. <g> Some advice based on 20 years of working with ESL authors, and the past 5 specializing in working with Japanese and Chinese clients:

<<We're supporting a CAD designer in China (we're in the UK) who has been dropped in at the deep end and is struggling with the work she is being sent. We want to start a kind of befriending scheme where one of our guys is her main point of contact; he has a good all round knowledge and could call on others for more specific info, but she would have one person she could build a relationship with. It must be so hard, she's on her own, conversing in her second language and really having to learn fast.>>

Don't understimate the cultural differences. Your "guy" is going to have to be unusually discreet and polite because Western relationships between men and women are much more crude and disrespectful (from a Chinese viewpoint) than she's likely to be familiar or comfortable with. I'm sure she'll expect this to be the case, but will approach the situation with considerable trepidation. You can go a long way towards sabotaging a relationship if you're unaware of this and unwilling to take great pains to avoid stepping too hard on any toes.

If none of your guys are particularly sensitive (i.e., able to do a reality check on what they're saying and how they say it), you may want to pair her with a woman. That's not because women are inherently better at this kind of conversation (though they may be), but rather because removing the male-female factor removes one large complication and thus, removes a large source of confusion and potential trouble.

Make sure that your support guy or gal starts the conversation with "I don't know anything about Chinese culture, and I hope you'll help me learn. I'll be very embarrassed at some of the mistakes that I make, but if you explain these mistakes to me and how to fix them, I'll try to do a better job." And make sure they really mean it. In China, the concept of _mianzi_ is vitally important, even today; the term is loosely translated as "face", but basically what it means is showing that you have great respect for other people's right to not be embarrassed publicly (thereby losing face for both of you).

<<Most of the contact will have to be done by email...>>

E-mail offers many advantages, including the chance to save a draft message and come back to it in an hour to make sure it really says what you wanted to say, and it gives your Chinese counterpart an opportunity to make sure she understands and to frame a respectable and respectful reply. You'd be amazed how much this improves the message.

Remember that e-mail is a form of cultural discourse: we have certain Western assumptions that don't translate into Chinese culture, and vice versa. Keep an eye open for anything that "looks weird" in her messages, and if you're not sure, ask for an explanation. Write carefully and professionally; many Chinese believe that if they receive a poorly written message that contains typos, you don't take them or the communication seriously. That can cause major problems.

<<The guys here are a good bunch, but very down to earth, say it as it is types.>>

Remind them that this won't fly with many Chinese, particularly in those early stages while you're still developing a friendly relationship. Tell them to pretend they're having tea with the Queen of England and to behave accordingly. <g>

<<I've suggested making sure they use positive phrases to gain her trust and ensure she feels she can ask for help as often as she needs. Things like avoiding saying 'don't do it like that' or 'the mistake you are making is' and swapping those phrase for more positive ones.>>

That's a good start. Direct criticism is very un-Chinese. Perhaps the contact person can pin a full sheet of paper beside their monitor that says "Always acknowledge what is right about what the person says, and provide legitimate compliments (not empty praise) where appropriate, then suggest another way (your way) to accomplish the same thing." The message will still be "they wouldn't have suggested this if they didn't think I was wrong and their way was better", but it's all in how you send that message.

If you're going to be working with Chinese colleagues, invest a few bucks in a copy of Scott Seligman's _Chinese Business Etiquette_. Adhering strictly to his advice will make you seem like a graduate from the Miss Manners School of Etiquette, but since we _weiguoren_ never quite "get it" the first several times we work with our Chinese colleagues, failing to attain that lofty pinnacle means that you still climb higher than you might otherwise.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Resource for positive phrases.: From: julie . harrison

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