An important difference in communication styles is the way in which people say “no” in different cultures. In most Asian cultures, for example Japanese and Indian, people find it difficult to say “no” directly. This can cause misunderstandings because Anglo-Saxon people express preferences very explicitly. When a Japanese person says, “Let me think about it”, he probably means “I’m sorry, no” and “Ah, that is so” or “I understand” are not necessarily positive responses. This is because saying “no” openly would embarrass them and make them feel uncomfortable for you because you would be “losing face”. This often causes miscommunication because the English speaker may feel that the other person is not being “open” and “honest” with them.
In many cultures around the world, “saving face” is very important. Saving face is a key social value in high context cultures (e.g. Asian and Arabic countries, Mexico, Brazil). When working in international teams, it is essential to be sensitive to this aspect of culture.
People from low context cultures, (eg. U.S., Germany, Scandinavia, Holland) can unintentionally create situations in which people feel they are “losing face” by being too direct and open about their opinions or feedback.
On the other hand, people from low context cultures sometimes feel that people from high context cultures are not being completely honest or are hiding their true emotions or opinions.