Standing-Out & Fitting-In

In the last three weeks, I almost used up my lifetime volume of group study and group work during company training. My Intercultural Communication teacher once taught me about Collectivism vs. Individualism, stating that westerner emphasis more on expressing individual opinions while Chinese love about fitting-in. Although this is not always true in a highly accelerated nation like China, everyone is fighting their head off to catch every opportunity — nobody pays attention to whether do it in an old fashioned and artistic way. But in occasions where no personal benefit related, you can easily identify or trace back to those lovely fitting-in attitudes.
The basic definition of fitting-in is to play at average level. That means, not too bad, not too good, everyone is just like everyone else. Ancient philosophy promotion of being modest has everything to do with it. Standing out means drawing all the attention on one single person, and since Chinese value collaborate work more than individual talent, standing-out could be mistakenly translated by other Chinese as “Oh, s/he wants all the credit!” or “S/he is so proud. S/he doesn’t care anyone else but her/himself!”. Of course, if this shinning performer doesn’t delivery a good speech, the audience will definitely bring the heaviest rock they have while aiming it at the stage (Only mentally.).

Another reason why fitting-in is still popular in 21 century China is that Chinese don’t like the confrontation between different ideas. It’s always faster to get to a conclusion with everyone agreeing on one thing. And Chinese always think and consider what are the other options proposed by group mates. So unless what the majority voting for is totally silly and absurd, Chinese will think about it, convincing themselves, and finally, accept it. For those disagreements, Chinese will bring it up in a peaceful way, either in the form of a question, or kindly suggestions.

But every group has its strongest muscle. What this piece of poor thing should do to avoid this inherent disaster? Keep in mind the two points above and provide personal opinions in a delightful and uncertain way: “I have an idea, I don’t know if it’s the best solution here, I will just walk you through my thinking patter, correct me for anything you noted, please interrupt me anytime.”

Another important notice under fitting-in is that every Chinese has some unique yet smart ideas, they are just too shy to express them all out. You will just have to dig harder to find out.

(BTW, WordPress has been blocked in Mainland China. I will have a very hard time crossing that firewall in the future:(…..)


One thought on “Standing-Out & Fitting-In

  1. Very interesting. Yes that sounds like collectivism. People in America do the same thing at work in groups, they don’t like to make ‘waves’. But some don’t care. If someone thinks they are right they will state it, but not every personality will do this, only confident personality.
    so wordpress is now blocked in China? that sucks…I wonder why

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