Sunday, December 12, 2010

A System of Favor

China operates on a system of “favor”.  From the lowliest pauper (in this case, perhaps, street sweeper) to the highest noble (in this case, perhaps government worker), the entire country operates in this manner.

 After living here for 8+ years, this is something I’ve noticed and discussed with Leeds (my wife who is Chinese and co-founder of JLmade…she checks my blogs often by the way).  This is not an easy one to put in to words, so bare with me.  I’m not talking about the term most people use “guanxi”~many Westerners have heard this term and for now, I’m not talking about that, although they are somewhat related.  This is a different topic…  I like this system of interaction; depending on how it’s used it can be your best friend or worst enemy.   

What do I mean?  When you first encounter and interact with an individual, they will look you up and down and in a split second decision, determine if you are someone they are willing to help.

From the person behind the checkout counter, to the factory manager you are dealing with in handling your offshore production, the Chinese work from a standpoint of judgments instead of obligated responsibility.

Here are a few examples. 

Emotion carried in 1st interaction:  The Chinese are good at sensing emotions.  If they can sense you are unhappy, angry or in a hurry, it will make them recluse and decreases effort and desire in performing their service to you.  They don’t hold the attitude of “no matter what this person is doing, I still have to do my job”; their job performance, will be based on your performance / attitude / emotion / etc.

You have to “feel other’s pain” here and show you understand:   If you’re interacting with someone and they have a complaint (I’m not talking about a customer…I’m talking about the lady behind the bank window), you best show you care and understand their situation.

In the Western world, we hold the attitude of keep your problems to yourself and “don’t tell me your life story”.  If you hold that attitude here, the folks will smell it, and the level of service, help, care will plummet or totally disappear.    

So if the person deems you unworthy to help, will they still help?  Yes, they’ll still help, but it won’t be as good.  You won’t get the full service you could have had.  You won’t know a key-detail that would’ve been helpful in the process.  If there is something they could have done extra to help…they certainly won’t do it now.

In later postings, will discuss how to build this rapport or bond, its advantages and probably will touch more on how to blow it!

I enjoy this topic and it’s something that most Westerners don’t get and even tons of Chinese who are perhaps calloused to it, don’t get.   

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