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Doing Business in India For Dummies® by Ranjini Manian

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Challenges in Communication

As you work toward building great business relationships in India, there are a number of potential communication problems you need to understand, and I explore those issues in this section.

Understanding the “yes” and “no” nuances

Few words are more definitive for Westerners than yes and no. In India, however, you need to watch out for the numerous meanings that each of those words can hold. For example, Indians may not want to give you bad news and say that no, they can’t deliver something you want. Instead they may say yes, but it’s because they’re worried about your reaction and straight “no” answers in India are considered rude.

Sometimes, under the influence of a misguided desire to please, an Indian may say yes to you, but in his mind he really means “yes I will try my best.” To avoid that confusion, make it known that it is okay to say no and that you value that straightforwardness more than you disapprove of an inability to meet a commitment. The lack of a straight answer may also just be the individual’s verbose style. Help such a person come to the point by saying “So what you are trying to say is . . . .”

Other nuances to Indian uses of yes and no include the following:

If an Indian says yes, it could mean “yes, we have every intention of trying,” as in the case of delivery of products or services.
When an Indian says no, she can actually mean yes. This occurrence happens often in the case of refusing food or drink the first time someone ...

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