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When doing business with partners from other cultures, it is important to understand their communication styles. Jeanne Brett explains how a little sensitivity can go a long way.

Cross-cultural communication

Cross-cultural collaboration

How you say it is just as important as what you say


The economy is growing more global by the minute. Businesses are forming stronger international bonds, especially between East Asia and the West. Proper communication is key to building those relationships, but what’s perfectly acceptable according to Western sensibilities may cause offense in the East and vice versa.

Prof. Jeanne Brett, Director of Kellogg's Dispute Resolution Research Center, shares how one of her students was faced with telling a vendor about an issue with an order of bicycles—and how his strategy surprised his classmates. His approach was the culturally appropriate way to solve the problem and maintain good relations with his supplier. Professor Brett’s tale of the rattling bike illustrates how indirect communication works best in Asian cultures and why it’s critical to understand differences in the way various cultures talk about problems.