Malaysians rely on non-verbal communication (i.e. facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc). Such a communication style tends to be subtle, indirect, and, Malaysians may hint at a point rather than making a direct statement, since that might cause the other person to lose face. Rather than say "no", they might say, "I will try", or "I’ll see what I can do". This allows the person making the request and the person turning it down to save face and maintain harmony in their relationship.
Silence is an important element of Malaysian communication. Pausing before responding to a question indicates that they have given the question appropriate thought and considered their response carefully. Malaysians may laugh at what may appear to outsiders as inappropriate moments. This device is used to conceal uneasiness.
Do not show anger in public as it makes Malaysians uncomfortable and creates a feeling of powerlessness. There is a greater chance of achieving a good outcome if you are calm, whereas little is resolved by shouting.
Small talk is a common way of beginning business meetings. Avoid discussing religion or politics and don't bring up family matters unless asked. Positive questions about your counterpart's business activities, natural or national events, sports and hobbies are safe. Small talk is useful in establishing business relationships in Malaysia, so don't dismiss it.
'Face' and face-saving is an extremely important aspect of negotiating in Malaysia. Actions, expressions, words and the surrounding environment are all part of the greater negotiating picture - not just the issue at hand. In Asian-style negotiations, you should prepare yourself for initial pleasantries and recognise that you are entering into the beginning of a long-term relationship, with the negotiation process indicating the start of this relationship. Initial negotiations with an Asian counterpart or company will generally not deal with specific issues at first. The process usually goes from general to the specific, and this includes the detailing of agreements in later stages of negotiation.
Speak clearly and slowly. If your client is in doubt, say it again with a different expression. Listen well and do not make any off-hand remarks. Be patient. By maintaining and retaining emotional control, demonstrating patience and not too aggressively pushing your position, not only do you leave further negotiations open, but you also importantly retain 'face' and subsequently earn respect. Be accurate with information and advice.