India: Conversation – Part 1

2015-06-12

General guidelines

Most Indians enjoy good conversation on a variety of topics. Even in business meetings, it is common and normal to start discussions with ‘small talk’ on other unrelated issues. In fact, this is seen as a way of building rapport and trust.

In general, Indians are open and friendly, and compared to many countries in the West, have a lesser sense of privacy. It is not unusual for a stranger to start up a conversation with you on a flight or a train journey.

Sometimes, Indians ask questions which can be seen as too personal and intrusive. However, one must remember that discussing one’s family and personal life is normal among Indians. In fact, often enquiring about the other person’s family is seen as a sign of friendliness.

Conversation in India is as much an exchange of views as it is a mode of building and strengthening relationships. Consequently, complimenting and showing appreciation are quite normal among Indians.

Indians seldom express their disagreement in a direct manner; open disagreement is likely to be interpreted as being hostile and aggressive [though expression of disagreement by someone who is superior or elder is, by and large, acceptable]. Normally, disagreements are openly expressed only with those with whom one has built a trusting relationship. Otherwise, disagreements are expressed in an indirect manner. In most cases – unless, it is a crucial issue – it is advisable to avoid expressing direct disagreement.

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