How Different Cultures Define “Type A Personalities”

Written By Ilan Nass- an editor at Fueled.  We develop iPhone and Android apps.

Type A people tend to be ambitious, assertive, proactive planners who are focused on high achievements – all traits that can be advantageous for entrepreneurs. However, when doing business with other cultures it’s important to understand that being a Type A personality doesn’t mean the same thing all over the world. While studies have shown that your personality will not change much after about age 30, we at Fueled are certain that knowing your tendency towards Type A characteristics and looking out for potential trouble spots can help you to work better in other cultures.

Personal vs Collective Goals

Personal ambition is a positive trait for entrepreneurs and international businesspeople because it drives individuals to work hard and take risks. But in many cultures the collective is more important that the individual and the fostering of interpersonal relationships is top priority. For example, in China and Southeast Asia the concept of ‘guanxi’, a network of informal contacts and social obligations, greatly influences business transactions. In such an environment, while your personal goals remain important, you will be more successful if you prioritize supporting the needs of your partnerships through favors and interactions.

Dealing with Conflict

Type A personalities tend to be proactive, looking out for future problems and trying to deal with conflicts before things get out of hand. However, assertively taking charge and dealing with conflict head on may be seen as too aggressive, or even a sign of bad manners, depending on who you are dealing with. In many cultures it can be rude to interrupt, to be direct about an issue, or even to speak loudly. While Australians may want responses to be brief and direct, in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong it is a sign of respect to be silent and allow the other person to consider all options before replying. In India the word “no” is considered to be too direct and very rude, it’s better to be indirect if you do not agree with someone.

Don’t Be Too Impatient

When working in some parts of the world, being too focused on accomplishing a particular goal in a specific time frame can be a definite disadvantage. While Germans are known to value punctuality, in many parts of Latin America and Africa appointment times may not be strictly adhered to, as these cultures are more relaxed in their perceptions of time. And again, it will be more important to focus on fostering strong interpersonal connections rather than being strictly focused on meeting your targets. For example, South Africans are reluctant to do business with strangers so you’ll have to curb your impatience, seek a way to be introduced, and then plan to spend your initial meeting getting to know your contact rather than discussing business. In Russian culture, patience is considered very important and slow negotiations are the norm. Trying to rush a decision or push your itinerary will only alienate the people you are trying to work with.

It’s also important to note that in certain places businesses shut down during certain times of day or during certain holidays or festivals, which can slow business down. Recognizing these cultural variations and building extra time into your project planning can help reduce stress levels when dealing with delays.


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