Why an Indian nod creates confusion?

Why an Indian nod creates confusion?

An American, James and an Indian associate, Rohit are in a discussion over a video conference. James is referring to a keynote and explaining a critical Business change, and Rohit is listening to it with rapt attention. Rohit is nodding his head slightly forward periodically signalling ‘he is with the speaker, he is attentive, he is following the discussion, he is on the same page’. He was told to do so while attending college lectures.

James read the nodding of Rohit as – not being excited about the matter. Rohit hasn’t understood the explanation, is not with him or worst, he disagrees. The half nodding sent confusing signals to James.

Both are right as per the interpretation in their culture, yet there is a considerable miscommunication! 

Indian culture: A lot of communication with Indians (and the Asians) is implied or implicit: body language, blinking eyes, hand signals. Tone, variation in voice need to be interpreted. The meaning of same action may also change as per the context. In short, one has to read between the lines. One has to be an observant.

American culture: Americans are explicit. They will say everything that they want to communicate explicitly. It may be felt ‘repetitive’ or ‘you being considered naive’ at times, though that is not the intention. Nothing is left for interpretation, no reading between the lines, clear communication. So much so that after cracking jokes, they may say ‘just kidding’ in case anybody didn’t get it! In the Indian context, it is not even a worthy joke, if you have to tell that explicitly!

The misinterpretation of Indian nodding is one of the few cultural differences that came out while writing my book ‘7 Untold Secrets of Living Abroad’; not just by the Americans but by most of the European nationals too. Implied communication is common among the Asians or the Eastern part of world!

When was the last you had a miscommunication due to cultural differences? 

Get through the cultural maze of 12 top nationalities around the world: read the Amazon Bestseller: 7 Untold Secrets of Living abroad

The article is part of the ‘Culture maze series’.

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If twelve colours of crayons can co-exist in a box, why can’t the humans?

If twelve colours of crayons can co-exist in a box, why can’t the humans?

My mother asked me once, “Lord Krishna has manifested himself in black colour. Why do you think he appeared in black coloured skin when he was fair himself and Radha, his constant companion was also fair coloured?” 

I was a blank face. I feel we have come far off from our roots in this modern world. 

“He took the black colour so that his devotees don’t differentiate anyone by skin colour. They should love Black/ Red/ Brown coloured as much as they like the fair skin. All are equal beings, and there is life in everyone; like He is the same even after manifesting black skin.” 

It was revealing to me. I thought about different societies around us. 

The USA is experiences racial disharmony; despite leading the world in many fields. South Africa is divided between the Whites (Afrikaners), Coloreds, Indian South Africans and the native Black Africans. 

If the twelve colours of crayons can co-exist in a box, why can’t we? 

(Photo credit: UCB’s Multiracial Campaign)