Why don’t my Chinese colleagues say a lot in meetings?

不同国家的朋友聊天,他们常常会提到一个问题:很多自己的中国同事在开会的时候往往不说很多,当被问到:“你对这个问题还有别的意见吗?”他们常常会说:“我没有意见了。”

gēn bù tóng guó jiā de péng you liáo tiān, tā men cháng cháng huì tí dào yí gè wèn tí: hěn duō zì jǐ de zhōng guó tóng shì zài kāi huì de shí hou wáng wǎng bù shuō hěn duō, dāng bèi wèn dào”nǐ duì zhè ge wèn tí hái yǒu bié de yì jiàn ma?”tā men cháng cháng huì shuō:“ wǒ méi yǒu yì jiàn le。 ” 

When I talk to friends from different countries, one question they often bring up is that many of their Chinese colleagues don’t say much in meetings. When they were asked, “Do you have any other objections or suggestions on this question?” They often say, “I’m fine with that. I  have no suggestion or objection.”

遇到这种情况,你一定感觉非常疑惑。如果他们一次没有意见,那很正常,但是如果他们总是说自己没有意见,那就有些奇怪了。甚至有的人会误以为中国的同事没有主见,只知道按照领导的要求一板一眼地完成自己的工作,像机器人一样。

yù dào zhè zhǒng qíng kuàng,nǐ yí dìng gǎn jué fēi cháng yí huò。rú guǒ tā men yí cì méi yǒu yì jiàn,nà hěn zhèng cháng,dàn shì rú guǒ tā men zǒng shì shuō zì jǐ méi yǒu yì jiàn,nà jiù yǒu xiē qí guài le。shèn zhì yǒu de rén huì wù yǐ wéi zhōng guó de tóng shì méi yǒu zhǔ jiàn, zhǐ zhī dào àn zhào líng dǎo de yāo qiú yì bǎn yì yǎn de wán chéng zì jǐ de gōng zuò,xiàng jī qì rén yí yàng。 

It must be very confusing to you. It’s normal if they don’t have an objection or suggestion at once, but it’s strange if they always say they don’t. Even some people may mistakenly believe that their Chinese colleagues are not independent-minded and only know to complete their work in accordance with the requirements of their leaders, just like robots.

如果你是这样想的,那你可能真的是误解你的同事了,也有可能是你自己的沟通方式出问题了。 

rú guǒ nǐ shì zhè yàng xiǎng de,nà nǐ kě néng zhēn de shì wù jiě nǐ de tóng shì le,yě yǒu kě néng shì nǐ zì jǐ de gōu tōng fāng shì chū wèn tí le。 

If you think so, you may have misunderstood your colleagues. Or probably there are something wrong with your way of communication. 

首先,我想说的是,在“有意见”和“没有意见”之间,中国人很少会“二选一”。因为在中国人的哲学当中,没有绝对的“有意见”或者是“没有意见”。

shǒu xiān,wǒ xiǎng shuō de shì,zài“ yǒu yì jiàn”hé“méi yǒu yì jiàn”zhī jiān,zhōng guó rén hěn shǎo huì“èr xuǎn yī”。yīn wèi zài zhōng guó rén de zhé xué dāng zhōng,méi yǒu jué duì de“yǒu yì jiàn”huò zhě shì“méi yǒu yì jiàn”。 

First of all, I would like to say that Chinese people rarely choose between “Have objections/suggestions” and “don’t have objection/suggestion”. Because in Chinese philosophy, there is no absolute “Yes” or “No”.

也许我现在有意见,但是因为我对这件事情并没有我的同事了解得深入,所以我会觉得有意见可能跟没有是一样的。

yé xǔ wǒ xiàn zài yǒu yì jiàn,dàn shì yīn wèi wǒ duì zhè jiàn shì qíng bìng méi yǒu wǒ de tóng shì liáo jiě de shēn rù,suó yǐ wǒ huì jué de yǒu yì jiàn kě néng gēn méi yǒu shì yí yàng de。 

Maybe I have some suggestions or objections now, but since I don’t know it as deeply as my colleagues, So I would think that having an suggestion or objection might be the same as not having one.

如果我的意见不太好,马上说出来可能会让自己的同事笑话,让自己很没面子,那还不如先完善一下自己的想法,过一段时间再说出来也不晚。

rú guǒ wǒ de yì jiàn bú tài hǎo,mǎ shàng shuō chū lái kě néng huì ràng zì jǐ de tóng shì xiào hua,ràng zì jǐ hěn méi miàn zi,nà hái bù rú xiān wán shàn yí xià zì jǐ de xiáng fǎ,guò yí duàn shí jiān zài shuō chū lái yě bù wǎn。   

If my suggestion is not very good, it may make my colleagues laugh at me and make me lose face. It is better to improve my idea first, and it is not too late to say it after a period of time.

其次,中国人普遍的想法是,一切都是在不断变化中的,可能此刻我有意见,我的建议也是可取的,但可能过几天就会发生变化,所以都是不一定的。

qí cì,zhōng guó rén pǔ biàn de xiáng fǎ shì,yí qiè dōu shì zài bú duàn biàn huà zhōng de,kě néng cǐ kè wǒ yǒu yì jiàn,wǒ de jiàn yì yě shì ké qǔ de,dàn kě néng guò jǐ tiān jiù huì fā shēng biàn huà,suó yǐ dōu shì bù yí dìng de。 

Second, the common belief in China is that everything is changing. I may have an suggestion or objection at the moment and my suggestion is also acceptable, but it may change in a few days, so everthing looks uncertain.

再次,万一以后出现了问题,还是要自己承担责任的,所以最好在开口之前更加谨慎一些。正所谓“三思而后行”。

zài cì,wàn yì yǐ hòu chū xiàn le wèn tí,hái shì yào zì jǐ chéng dān zé rèn de,suó yǐ zuì hǎo zài kāi kǒu zhī qián gèng jiā jǐn shèn yì xiē。zhèng suǒ wèi“sān sī ér hòu xíng”。

Again, in case something goes wrong later in the future, you still have to take the responsibility, so you’d better be more careful before you open your mouth. It’s the so-called “三思而后行(sān sī ér hòu xíng,Look before you leap)“.

另外,如果你觉得你的中国的同事像机器人一样工作,那我认为从另外一个角度来看,也可能是因为你在用自己认为的正确的方式在跟他们沟通,而实际上,你对待他们的方式也可能像是对待机器人一样,并没有像尊重一个人一样充分尊重他们。很多事情都是互相的,你用什么方式对待他,他可能也会用同样的方式对待你,特别是如果你让他觉得这种方式还是你喜欢或者习惯的方式。

lìng wài,rú guǒ nǐ jué de nǐ de zhōng guó de tóng shì xiàng jī qì rén yí yàng gōng zuò,nà wǒ rèn wéi cóng lìng wài yí gè jiǎo dù lái kàn,yě kě néng shì yīn wèi nǐ zài yòng zì jǐ rèn wéi de zhèng què de fāng shì zài gēn tā men gōu tōng,ér shí jì shàng,nǐ duì dài tā men de fāng shì yě kě néng xiàng shì duì dài jī qì rén yí yàng,bìng méi yǒu xiàng zūn zhòng yí gè rén yí yàng chōng fēn zūn zhòng tā men。hěn duō shì qíng dōu shì hù xiāng de,nǐ yòng shén me fāng shì duì dài kě néng yě huì yòng tóng yàng de fāng shì duì dài nǐ , tè bié shì rú guǒ nǐ ràng  jué de zhè zhǒng fāng shì hái shì nǐ xǐ huan huò zhě xí guàn de fāng shì。 

In addition, if you think that your Chinese colleagues are working like robots, I think from another perspective, it may also because you are communicating with them in the way which are right in your mind. But in fact, the way you treat them may also be like treating a robot, you didn’t fully respect them as a person. A lot of things are mutual, maybe he will treats you in the same way that you treat him, especially if you let him feel that this is the way that you like or get used to. 

所以当中国人跟你说:“我没有意见”的时候,你要保持敏感,因为他所说的很可能有以下几种含义:

suó yǐ dāng zhōng guó rén gēn nǐ shuō:“wǒ méi yǒu yì jiàn”de shí hou, nǐ yào bǎo chí mín gǎn,yīn wèi tā suǒ shuō de hěn kě néng yǒu yǐ xià jǐ zhǒng hán yì: 

So be sensitive when a Chinese person tells you, “I have no problem with that,” Because what he said probably has the following meanings:

第一,他很有意见,只是碍于情面,不好意思马上说出来,以免大家没有面子,弄得很尴尬。

dì yī,tā hěn yǒu yì jiàn,zhǐ shì ài yú qíng miàn,bù hǎo yì si mǎ shàng shuō chū lái,yí miǎn dà jiā méi yǒu miàn zi,nòng de hěn gān gà。

First, he has a lot of opinions or objections. It is just because that he cares about other people’s feelings, and he doesn’t want to say it right away to avoid embarrassment.

第二,他很有意见,但是不愿意轻易说出来。他想先试试看别人有没有诚意要听,如果自己说出来, 会不会有效果。如果事后发现对方想听,说出来之后也会有一定的效果,那么他当然可以讲出来。

dì èr,tā hěn yǒu yì jiàn,dàn shì bú yuàn yì qīng yì shuō chū lái。tā xiǎng xiān shì shì kàn bié rén yǒu méi yǒu chéng yì yào tīng,rú guǒ zì jǐ shuō chū lái, huì bu huì yǒu xiào guǒ。 rú guǒ shì hòu fā xiàn duì fāng xiǎng tīng,shuō chū lái zhī hòu yě huì yǒu yí dìng de xiào guǒ,nà me tā dāng rán ké yǐ jiǎng chū lái。

Second, he has a lot of opinions or objections, but he doesn’t want to say it immediately. He wants to see whether others have sincerity to listen to, and whether there will make any difference. If so, of course he will say it out.

第三,他很有意见,不过觉得目前的环境或者情况,好像不适合说。在这种情况下,中国人的做法是:先说自己没有意见,等到时机合适的时候再说。

dì sān,tā hěn yǒu yì jiàn,bú guò jué de mù qián de huán jìng huò zhě qíng kuàng,hǎo xiàng bú shì hé shuō。zài zhè zhǒng qíng kuàng xià,zhōng guó rén de zuò fǎ shì:xiān shuō zì jǐ méi yǒu yì jiàn,děng dào shí jī hé shì de shí hou zài shuō。 

Third, he has a lot of opinions or objections, but he feels that it’s not the right time to say it. In this case, what Chinese people will do is that they will tell you that they don’t have any objection or suggestion and wait until the right time. Then they will tell you the truth.

第四,他可能真的没有意见。

dì sì,tā kě néng zhēn de méi yǒu yì jiàn。

Fourth, probably he really doesn’t have any suggestion or objection.

所以你看,其实大部分情况下,中国人是有自己的意见的,只是他们没有说出来而已。

suó yǐ nǐ kàn,qí shí dà bù fen qíng kuàng xià,zhōng guó rén shì yǒu zì jǐ de yì jiàn de,zhǐ shì tā men méi yǒu shuō chū lái ér yǐ。

So you see, in most cases, Chinese people have their own opinions, but they just don’t say them out.

那当你的中国同事在开会的时候总是跟你说他没有别的建议或者意见的时候,你该怎么办呢?到底如何才能知道他们的真实想法呢?

nà dāng nǐ de zhōng guó tóng shì zài kāi huì de shí hou zǒng shì gēn nǐ shuō tā méi yǒu bié de jiàn yì huò zhě yì jiàn de shí hou,nǐ gāi zěn me bàn ne?dào dǐ rú hé cái néng zhī dào tā men de zhēn shí xiáng fǎ ne? 

So what do you do when your Chinese colleague tells you in meetings that he has no other suggestions or objections? How can you know what they really think?

下面我们就来说说几种你可以尝试的办法:

xià mian wǒ men jiù lái shuō shuō jǐ zhǒng nǐ ké yǐ cháng shì de bàn fǎ: 

Here are a few things you can try:

1、要在开完会以后,单独去跟你的中国同事沟通,并且最好是一对一沟通。

yào zài kāi wán huì yǐ hòu,dān dú qù gēn nǐ de zhōng guó tóng shì gōu tōng,bìng qiě zuì hǎo shì yí duì yì gōu tōng。 

Communicate with your Chinese colleagues individually after the meeting, preferably one-on-one.

因为在很多情况下,中国人会担心当众表达自己的意见会让别人没有面子。

yīn wèi zài hěn duō qíng kuàng xià,zhōng guó rén huì dān xīn dāng zhòng biǎo dá zì jǐ de yì jiàn huì ràng bié rén méi yǒu miàn zi。  

Because in many cases, Chinese people are afraid that expressing their opinions in public will make others lose face.

如果自己总是不断在其他同事面前对自己上司的方案提出意见,难免会让上司不开心,没有面子,因为这会让人感觉下属比上司更有能力。

rú guǒ zì jǐ zǒng shì bú duàn zài qí tā tóng shì miàn qián duì zì jǐ shàng sī de fāng àn tí chū yì jiàn,nán miǎn huì ràng shàng sī bù kāi xīn,méi yǒu miàn zi,yīn wèi zhè huì ràng rén gǎn jué xià shǔ bǐ shàng sī gèng yǒu néng lì。 

If you always keep commenting on your boss’s plan in front of other colleagues, it will inevitably make your boss unhappy and also lose face, because it will make people feel that you are more capable than your boss.

而如果总是当众给自己的平级同事提意见,可能会引起同事的反感,因为毕竟他才是这个项目的主要负责人,对自己项目的了解应该比任何人都深入。

ér rú guǒ zǒng shì dāng zhòng gěi zì jǐ de píng jí tóng shì tí yì jiàn,kě néng huì yín qǐ tóng shì de fán gǎn,yīn wèi bì jìng tā cái shì zhè ge xiàng mù dì zhǔ yào fù zé rén,duì zì jǐ xiàng mù de liáo jiě yīng gāi bǐ rèn hé rén dōu shēn rù。   

And if you always give opinions to your peers in public, it may cause resentment, because after all, he is the main person in charge of this project, and his understanding of this project should be deeper than anyone else.

所以,一般来说,我们会在开会之前或者开完会以后去找相关同事沟通,诚恳请教他们,从而了解他们的真实想法。

suó yǐ,yì bān lái shuō,wǒ men huì zài kāi huì zhī qián huò zhě kāi wán huì yǐ hòu qù zhǎo xiāng guān tóng shì gōu tōng,chéng kěn qǐng jiào tā men,cóng ér liáo jiě tā men de zhēn shí xiáng fǎ。 

Therefore, generally speaking, we will talk to the relevant colleagues before or after the meeting sincerely, so as to know their real thoughts.

2、中国人喜欢参与,当有机会参与时,就会觉得自己备受重视,也会对自己的想法更有信心,因此也就很有可能会把意见说出来。

zhōng guó rén xǐ huan cān yù,dāng yǒu jī huì cān yù shí,jiù huì jué de zì jǐ bèi shòu zhòng shì,yě huì duì zì jǐ de xiáng fǎ gèng yǒu xìn xīn,yīn cǐ yě jiù hěn yǒu kě néng huì bǎ yì jiàn shuō chū lái。 

Chinese people like to participate. When they have the opportunity to participate, they will feel highly valued and more confident about their ideas, so they are more likely to express their opinions.

所以,在条件允许的情况下,你可以试着创造机会让大家真正参与其中,这样因为大家有了亲身经历,对事情了解也更加深入,彼此之间的关系也更亲密,所以就更愿意说出自己的真实想法。

suó yǐ,zài tiáo jiàn yún xǔ de qíng kuàng xià,nǐ ké yǐ shì zhe chuàng zào jī huì ràng dà jiā zhēn zhèng cān yù qí zhōng,zhè yàng yīn wèi dà jiā yǒu le qīn shēn jīng lì,duì shì qíng liáo jiě yě gèng jiā shēn rù,bí cǐ zhī jiān de guān xi yě gèng qīn mì,suó yǐ jiù gèng yuàn yì shuō chū zì jǐ de zhēn shí xiáng fǎ。 

So, you can try to create opportunities for people to really get involved if possible, so that they’re more willing to say what they really think because they’re experiencing it, they’re learning more about it, they’re closer to each other.

3、要在平时的工作中注意经营自己跟同事之间的关系。因为很多时候当你需要同事的帮助,或者需要他们给自己的工作一些建议的时候,更好的关系总会让你的工作进展更加顺利,效率也可能更高。比如说,因为你们私下关系很好,他可能会告诉你更多有用的信息,也可能为此加班加点,废寝忘食,因为对他来说,朋友的事情从来都不是小事。

yào zài píng shí de gōng zuò zhōng zhù yì jīng yíng zì jǐ gēn tóng shì zhī jiān de guān xi。yīn wèi hěn duō shí hou dāng nǐ xū yào tóng shì de bāng zhù,huò zhě xū yào tā men gěi zì jǐ de gōng zuò yì xiē jiàn yì de shí hou,gèng hǎo de guān xi zǒng huì ràng nǐ de gōng zuò jìn zhǎn gèng jiā shùn lì,xiào lǜ yě kě néng gèng gāo。bǐ rú shuō,yīn wèi nǐ men sī xià guān xi hěn hǎo,tā kě néng huì gào su nǐ gèng duō yǒu yòng de xìn xī,yě kě néng wèi cǐ jiā bān jiā diǎn,fèi qǐn wàng shí,yīn wèi duì tā lái shuō,péng you de shì qíng cóng lái dōu bú shì xiǎo shì。

Pay attention to managing your relationships with colleagues in your daily work. Because a lot of times when you need help or advice from your co-workers, a better relationship will make your work smoother and probably more productive. For example, because you have better relationship with your colleague, he may tell you more useful information, or he may work overtime and even forget to eat or sleep, because friends’ things are never small things for him.

这就是今天我想跟你分享的内容,希望对你有帮助。

zhè jiù shì jīn tiān wǒ xiǎng gēn nǐ fēn xiǎng de nèi róng,xī wàng duì nǐ yǒu bāng zhù 。

That’s what I’d like to share with you today, and I hope it helps.

在你的工作中,曾经遇到哪些让你感觉很困惑的事情,欢迎你在留言区跟我分享。

zài nǐ de gōng zuò zhōng,céng jīng yù dào nǎ xiē ràng nǐ gǎn jué hěn kùn huò de shì qíng, huān yíng nǐ zài liú yán qū gēn wǒ fēn xiǎng。

Are there any other things which make you confused in your work?Welcome to share with me in the comments section.

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