Business Practices in East-West Communications

At Tuesday's Global Connections lecture series, Dr. Jack Lewis got great applause from the audience responding to his advice on communicating with business associates from Asia and South America. His expertise is communicating with Asia and most specifically the country of Japan.

Lewis is an associate dean at USC's Marshall School of Business and longtime manager of the IBEAR MBA Program, a one-year international MBA program for professional managers, emphasizing business in and between the Americas and Asia.

Lewis stated that he had some Santa Monica College roots with his father and grandfather coming from Nebraska to study at SMC and later getting their master's at USC.

Lewis then spoke about how his fascination with business and Japan began:

"I went to a school called Lewis and Clark University and for the first and only time they made every freshmen go abroad and study there. Some went to Chile, some to Germany, I went to Japan and I got my Ph.D. focus on Japan. So I have been dealing with Asia since I was 18 years old."

One of the fascinating facts Lewis talked about was how Western students from the United States thought of Eastern Asian students and vice versa in the terms of business.

Lewis stated that Westerners thought of Asian students as staying with their group, using their own language, preferring people who are older and that they do not contribute accurately. Eastern students on the other hand had a long list of how they see Western students:

"Very active, verbally aggressive, too direct, domineering, selfish, conversational overlapping, not careful or thoughtful, and speaking before thinking," said Lewis.

He then went on to talk about key points in business practices with Eastern businesspeople.

"Listening is the number one skill. You can take any business class and they will all tell you that you have to listen. Keep your mouth shut and ears open, and listen," he said.

Lewis went on to say to step out of your comfort level and always ask a question or help because that will show to your business associate respect. He also talked about feeling emphatic, balance, and never saying the term "I want."

"Avoid using that term," he said. "There are ways to indicate what your preferences are that are softer than that but if you say in a group setting with people from Asia that you want to do this or that they will normally give it away to you but feel a lot of pressure," said Lewis.

Many of the students asked many questions and were eagerly writing notes to get the helpful advice from Lewis. Many students will remember his tips for a long time.

"It was so interesting when he talked about Japan and Brazil and his lecture will definitely stay with me forever in my business career and he definitely expanded our minds with his expertise on communication," said SMC student California Bustamante.

When asked about his advice to SMC students, he said, "Everyone is a potential lifelong friend or business colleague. Never discount anyone, regardless of their apparent status in life. Reach out constantly.

"Touch people in a gentle, personal manner. Listen. Do what you say you will do. Maintaining a trust and long term personal relationship is the bedrock of effective business and good life."