Are Malaysians Culturally Shy?

Imagine this scenario: You are in a meeting. There has been a call for anyone present to offer suggestions or their thoughts on what has just been discussed. Silence descends as no one speaks up. Why does this happen? Is it due to shyness? Are Malaysians shy culturally as a whole?

Shyness is defined as being nervous or timid in the company of other people. It is a personality trait. Therefore, in any culture, there will be all sorts of personalities. Yes, some may certainly be shy by nature, but this is not true of everyone.

So if the above scenario is not due to shyness, then what is it that is the real cause? For one thing, it is the Malaysian culture of respecting authority. Malaysian culture is very much a hierarchical culture. Therefore, in meetings, employees tend to be reserved, respectfully allowing those in higher positions to voice their thoughts instead. Speaking up may be viewed as being pushy. Also, when questions are asked, there is usually a pause before an answer is given. This indicates respect, and that one is seriously giving thought to the question so as to give a good reply. Hence, do not worry if it takes some time before anyone responds.

Other than that, Malaysians often do not proffer their opinions unless they are repeatedly asked to do so. True, shy people too do not often share their opinions publicly, but there is actually another reason for this occurrence, which is the Malaysian cultural trait of indirectness. In Malaysian society, people do not choose to say things outright (especially negative things), as they do not want to cause others to lose face. Openly disagreeing with someone is one way of causing that person to lose face, and is avoided. In meetings, you will rarely find anyone disagreeing with you or offering criticism for this reason.

A further reason Malaysians do not speak up has to do with their fear of taking risks. Giving an answer that they are not 100% sure of could result in giving an incorrect answer, thus causing shame and a loss of face, which is to be avoided at all costs. Therefore, keeping silent is the safer alternative.

In order to successfully communicate with Malaysians, whether in a business context or otherwise, it is important to understand the reasons behind what may seem to be shyness on their part. It is not actually shyness, but is actually due to their culture. Cultural training can help you to further understand this occurrence and also how to effectively cope with it.


By Boleh Blogger