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ASK, NOT TELL

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  • David

Dealing with learners in China

Updated: Mar 8

I have a few overseas colleagues coming first time to China to deliver a management skills class last month. They sent us an email containing a few questions. There was one about how to make Chinese learners to speak up in class. This question made me recall my first experience in delivering to a group of non-Chinese participants. This was Dubai in 2006. Participants were mostly from India and Pakistan. It is THE occasion when I realize how reserved Chinese participants are in class! More about the Dubai experience in my previous post – ‘Sorry, I don’t quite understand what you want us to do’.


I responded to my overseas colleague with 7 ideas. Let me share with you my response here (Excuse me for being very briefing in my response since I was in a rush at that time...)


How do we enable the participants to best question/ disagree with us if they feel that they want to ask questions and/ or position another perspective? We are conscious that they may not be as openly vocal in group as other audiences and so will be building in lots of small group work. However, in plenary are there specific tips that you can give us to ensure that they don’t feel ‘talked at’ and will help them to be comfortable being interactive?


You are right in saying that those from China have lower tendency to speak up. A few suggestions:

1. Ask easier questions – especially on day 1 or 2

2. Invite particular person to respond – some know the answer and willing to share, just that sometimes it is impolite to volunteer too much

3. Make ‘asking question’ a fun activity e.g. point to be given to the table team for each question asked

4. Identify the pioneers (before the class, during the break) and let them bring up the atmosphere

5. Ask questions relating to their real work problems – they cannot help to speak up since they feel the pain

6. Write instead ask – give them a platform e.g. ‘parking lot’ or ‘graffiti wall’ in a corner

7. Patience – do not get frustrated if you do not much response in the beginning

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