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Decoding High-Context Feedback

Infamous stories abound of Western business people flying over to Asia and coming back thinking that they'd closed the deal, only to find out later on that in fact, they hadn't.

Especially in the business environments of Tokyo and Taipei to name a few, gracious hospitality and face-saving will always be prioritized over the direct truth.

This mentality extends to customer service as well as learning & development, where customers or clients will rarely directly voice their dissatisfaction but will do so online for eg. through Google reviews.

💡 In order to understand how my clients are feeling or what they need, I rely on 5 methods:

1. Communicate through a third party: have a middle person negotiate all details and opinions so that my client and I can focus on relationship-building and avoid all conflict which could cause a loss of face 💫

2. Prioritize written assessments & feedback before, during, and after the course/workshop ✨

3. For longer group training/coaching programs, periodically schedule 1-on-1 sessions where participants may feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts away from the pressure of the group 🌟

4. Make use of polls in online settings with both close-ended and open-ended questions - I get a lot more feedback from this ✨

5. When in one-on-one or in small groups, never assume that you've created the space for an opinion to be shared. Actively ask - you'll be surprised by how much this question is appreciated and what comes from it 💫

📚 I've been working with a group of Taiwanese engineers at a Japanese company every week since last summer on developing their social skills for Intercultural Communication at a remote company. We recently received their course feedback and as usual, some of the participant's feedback came as a complete surprise to me. For example, one of them - who comes across as disinterested - gave full scores in all 15 categories and added: "Michelle is very kind and patient. "/ "Michelle 老師非常親切,而且很有耐心."

Great to hear! Although I like to receive positive feedback, I especially value hearing what's not working so that I can improve and develop.

❗ That's why it's so important to apply the 5 methods above - in addition to doing as much 'reading the air' as I can - to continuously learn and be of better service to my clients.

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