Expressive vs. Reserved Style

What You'll Learn
  • Cultures vary in how they view the expression of emotion in a business setting, such as frustration or excitement
  • Some cultures value a very reserved style of expressing emotions, and see any public display as inappropriate and even suspect
  • Other cultures favor an expressive style, and don't trust those whose emotions don't match their words

How will emotions be perceived in negotiations?

Another point to keep in mind regarding communication is that cultures vary in how they view the expression of emotion in a business setting. Some cultures, such as Chinese, Japanese, and to a degree the English and northwestern Europeans, value a very reserved style of communicating and feel that the open expression of emotion, even at a point of great frustration or elation, is foolish, inappropriate, and immature. Many other cultures, including Mediterranean, Arab and, in some situations Russians and Latin America, favor an expressive style and include emotion as a natural part of the process. A total lack of emotion in their counterparts may feel to them like a lack of sincerity and trust.

Tips for reserved people

  • Try not to be overwhelmed by a very expressive type of person, and definitely do not interpret the "drama" of what you see as naiveté or lack of sophisticated business skills. Remember that for expressive people the display of emotion is an offer of trust.
  • If it is difficult for you to move towards a little more expressive style yourself, try to at least smile and show appreciation for your partner's willingness to communicate.

Tips for expressive people

  • Try not to interpret reserved behavior as snobbishness, coldness, or a lack of interest. Reserved people behave in that way out of a respect for etiquette and out of a sense of prudence—they don't want to inadvertently make a bad impression.
  • If you are very expressive and you suspect that you are overwhelming your partner, "turn down the volume" just a bit—allow them time to talk—and be patient. Often when you are in a more relaxed setting (such as a restaurant) or when the relationship is more mature, you will see the personal side you are looking for.

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