If you aspire to be successful in business in Poland, be sure to bear in mind that a good rapport is much more important here than practical considerations. In other words, Poles place the greatest emphasis on harmonious relationships.
This highlights the extremely people-oriented approach to communication in Poland. A constructive climate of discussion, where the participants feel comfortable at all times, is always a top priority for Poles. Under no circumstances will this be marred by uttering harsh words, offering criticism or awkward information. Business goals can only be attained in Poland in a pleasant atmosphere.
Above all, therefore, Poles communicate indirectly. Many things are not explicitly addressed or expressed in unambiguous words. Instead, they are hinted at with caution. Wherever possible, the discussion skirts around any topics that appear to be negative.
For example, requests may be agreed to even though it is clear from the outset that they are simply not feasible. But such commitments spare the participants from a negative response, which would only lead to disappointment or perhaps even conflict. Poles view a direct refusal as the height of bad manners or disrespect and prefer to use diplomatic, evasive responses. So be prepared to listen carefully and read between the lines.
Observe facial expressions and gestures
These include non-verbal signals. Facial expressions and gestures often speak volumes.
Emotions such as delight or frustration are not suppressed during business transactions in Poland. However, smiles and laughter are rare. Expressions tend to be serious in Poland. This does not mean that Poles are depressed all the time. Having said that, there is a Polish saying that only stupid people laugh without cause. Poles need a good reason to smile or laugh. They regard anything else as inappropriate or even insincere.
Beware when finding fault
Given their preference for indirect communication, you should also choose your own words wisely when in Poland. Exercise particular caution when making critical remarks. Poles do not distinguish between criticism of a particular issue and of a person. Constructive criticism that seeks to improve something overall is unheard of in Poland. Censure is invariably taken personally, or even viewed as a personal affront, and has no positive connotations whatsoever. Although requesting feedback is common, most Poles will only do so if they expect a positive endorsement.
If you must find fault with a person or a particular issue in Poland, under no circumstances should you do so in front of an audience. Always speak to them in confidence. The Sandwich Method is recommended in this case: the negative comment is sandwiched between several compliments to cushion the blow.
If you appear to be too direct, overly negative or patronising for Polish sensibilities, this will often be met with a withdrawal from – or even termination of – the meetings. The interpersonal relationship is impaired and must first be rebuilt before the discussions can continue.