I wrote a post the other day on Linkedin, entitled, How to Negotiate with Chinese Companies and someone left the following comment in response:
How bout get in their face and tell it like it is! That usually wipes the fake smiles and nervous laughter off their face pretty quick! Don’t give the Chinese one inch of room to move, if you get pissed bang on the table and scream in their face; they hate confrontation and will always back down. They are constantly worried about a loss of temper from a laowai, if you get a reputation as a hot head you will get what you want.
My initial feeling on seeing this was consternation because anger is rarely a good method for achieving one’s goals, unless and until all else has failed. If you are calm and rational and that does not work, you can try anger and that might work. But if you start out with anger it becomes extremely difficult to win someone over by switching to a calm and rational approach. I am not saying anger never works or never makes sense because it sometimes does. But I am saying using it as a first approach is virtually always unwise. And when you do employ anger, you should be sure to employ it in a controlled way, so your counterpart does not flee from you, but instead realizes you are one favor away from being calm and rational again. I last got angry with Comcast (I mean, who doesn’t) and even then I was sure to constantly interject with “I’m not mad at you, I’m just mad about how Comcast seems to believe I should pay the price for its own incompetence.”
But when it comes to China, I have my doubts about the value of ever using anger as a method for effecting business change. My sense has always been that getting angry will lead your Chinese counterpart to at that moment act as though he or she is agreeing with you and what you are proposing, but once you are gone your Chinese counterpart will do whatever can be done never to have anything to do with you ever again.
Anger in China, does it ever make sense as a strategy for advancing a business deal or relationship? We’d love to see your comments on this below.