How To Show Respect and Do Business Across Borders
People always ask what it’s like to do business in India, especially as a woman. In my personal experience I have had (mostly) only good ones, and a lot of it has to do with 2 main things: how you read people, and how you listen.
Traveling opens up new journeys and experiences, but traveling for business out of your own country is a totally new form of exploration. I always knew I wanted travel to be a part of whatever work I undertook, because I love learning about people and how they work. I love connecting across cultures. Singapore and India are miles apart, both in terms of geography and culture. Missed expectations, uncertainties and a sense of overwhelming unfamiliarity were a huge part of the first few production trip. Over time, though, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade. Here are some of my top takeaways for doing business across borders:
01 | THROW PLAN “A” OUT THE WINDOW
Words can be misleading, especially in cross-cultural scenarios and this means you will definitely have some miscommunications. Try to figure out who you’re working with and their motivations, and make your own decisions and Plan B’s for when it doesn’t go as planned. Being flexible to work out alternatives and solutions requires having an open mind about what the end result is really supposed to be.
02 | BUILD RELATIONSHIPS, NOT JUST ROLES
Take time to get to know someone. In India, meetings do not begin with structured agendas. Instead, time is passed by drinking chai, having conversations on family, the weather, or cricket. Carrying a baby or two can make big strides in cementing a relationship, as well as taking note of obvious cultural dates for celebration. Rather than seeing it as small talk, realize that there’s something to be learnt from everyone. Important agendas are usually discussed only after the relationship has been built.
03 | BE A CULTURE VULTURE
In order to work successfully in another country, you need to learn and understand their culture and that’s the most flourishing type of partnership. Being able to adapt to any unfamiliar scenario and being comfortable in it is a winning formula. When partners observe that you’re not just adapting but appreciating their culture, they recognize the respect you have for them and it opens a whole new range of possibilities. Understand your context in order to change it.
04 | PROCESS, NOT OUTCOMES
Understanding the production process or whatever process you’re undertaking in your choice of foreign land allows you to be more present in it, rather than just focusing on the end results. Mastering that means also knowing eventually which levers to push and pull to get to the final intended result.
05 | FIND THE COMMON LANGUAGE: MUTUAL RESPECT
In situations where the language spoken isn’t mutual, you can easily communicate by just listening (and a lot of sign language and humor). Developing mutual respect and having the patience and humility to realize your language is not the default the world over goes a long way.
The best thing about traveling for business is the shift in mindset that happens in bits and bounds, and the experiences you have that are totally off the map. Dealing with business matters in another country with a different culture, ethics and language might seem tough in the beginning, but it can be worth the time and effort spent.
You’ll learn more about yourself when you have the default attitude of being humble to know that you’re ignorant, especially in a country miles apart from yours.
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