Reflections on Traveling China – Part 3: Different Thinking Styles Reflecting Prominent Philosophies

sanya_2017_small-134A concluding learning from all these explorations is that, just as on the personal level, on the diplomatic level it is equally important to learn about the history and language of the other culture when facing negotiators from differing cultures. One should not assume that the other side will always interpret things in the same way that he or she would do. Definitions and perceptions of concepts such as happiness differ in accordance with different cultural backgrounds. Negotiators need to be patient and sensitive towards nonverbal or indirect communication, build warm personal relationships and finally, another important aspect is to always show respect and maintain face of others, in the sense of not offending or surprising the other side (Glaser, 2005).

I personally learned that history, geography and culture can subtly change how we all think. Our thinking is shaped by where we grew up and live and hence, there is a great global diversity of thinking. As a recent article published on BBC Future states, “greater awareness of these forces can help us all understand our own minds a little better” (2017).

Finally, I asked myself: Where do these different ways of thinking due to either collectivistic or individualistic cultural backgrounds come from? How did different thinking styles emerge in the first place and why do people on earth not just think the same way? David Robson, author of the BBC Future article, argues that they simply reflect the prevailing philosophies that have been prominent in different regions over time (BBC Future, 2017). While Western philosophers emphasized freedom and independence, Eastern philosophers like Confucius emphasized relationships and obligations within groups. Taoism focused on concepts of unity, for example. As these diverse ideas and worldviews are embedded in a culture’s literature, education and more it is only a logical consequence that respective ways of thinking have been internalized and are up until today influencing basic psychological processes (BBC Future, 2017).

References:

BBC Future (01/19/2017). How East and West think in profoundly different ways. Retrieved January 24, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

Glaser, T. (2005). Conflict Research Consortium Book Summary. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/example/cohe7517.html

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