In my earlier post titled "How to Use International Conferences to Your Advantage", one of the tips I gave was to approach as many speakers and attendees as possible and establish contact. Well, how do you do it if you don't speak the language of the party you want to meet? Or even if they speak your language, how do you break the behavioral ice? Those of you who work with Russian people would agree that this behavioral ice is immediately noticeable on your first encounter with them.
It is very interesting to observe how simple cultural or behavioral misunderstandings can extend their way into global politics and put countries in gridlock. Look at what is happening between the US and Russia - it took painfully long years to build some economic relations between the two countries and only a day to crash it into pieces slapping each other with detrimental economic sanctions. You may argue it is not as simple as that, there is too much involved. While it may be true, the fundamental cause of differences between the US and Russia has roots going back to cultural misunderstanding.
I read news from the Russian networks in Russian and US networks in English and sometimes smile at each one's interpretation of the same events. US population is definitely united in its own views and so is the Russian population in its own interpretation of the events. In the US people hail US government's rightfully correct response to some of Russia's actions and so do the Russians hail responses of their government to US actions. And when you read these news in both languages, both sides are very compelling! How can that be? How in a world where we should theoretically have one set of international rules, we have so dramatically different reactions? It is because people respond first with their usual modus operandi - emotions flavored with cultural patterns and then with logic. And quite often, emotions take over common sense. Therefore, it is important to incorporate these emotions and behaviors into business relations in a way that it helps build business and not the other way around.
So how do we build business relations with Russian speaking people?
The tips below extend generally to all Russian-speaking countries in Eurasia as they share many behaviors due to historical and cultural linkages.
First, do not be shocked by your first encounter. It may seem like a harsh treatment, it is actually not at all. In the English gentle and polite culture, the manner of Russian communication may be quite shocking. Make an effort to immediately get over that and continue talking. In Russian speech, the communication does not sound that bad, it is just when it is translated into another language, it becomes harsh. There are numerous examples of soft and gentle Russian communication expressed through their poetry and fiction, and Russian does actually sound very lyrical and poetic if you are a native speaker.
Second, TOP SECRET - Russians do not speak to people they do not know, so do not expect them to approach you first. You need to make this effort first.
Third, another secret - Russians do not talk to people they do not like. Here we are talking about respect and trust. This is a must ingredient in a hope for doing any business with the Russians.
Fourth, Russians are very personable people who like to get to know everyone on a close and personal level. Asking about what is considered personal information in the West like family, children, salary, age is very common and you need to be willing to share it to establish immediate connection.
Finally, for long term relations integrity and delivering promises is the key. It is because, once you establish the connection with Russian people, you become their friends and the meaning of friendship is taken very seriously. In Russian culture, it is very hard to separate business from friendship.
International Business is a multi-dimensional process that incorporates things I discussed above and much more and we can help you make it a successful process.
Posted by Nilufar Salama of www.salamatrade.com on 8/22/2015. SALAMA INTERNATIONAL - Providing Value in Growing Your International Business.
August 22, 2015