How something is said is often more important in Hungary than what is actually said. Polite phrases, which may seem almost subservient to us, are the rule here in the business environment. Rudeness, on the other hand, tends to be perceived as an insult.
Due to the high relationship orientation of the Hungarians, communication tends to be more indirect and implicit. Hungarians do not speak plainly, especially not in negative statements, but use clever innuendos and cautious hints to harmoniously express their point of view. Facial expressions, gestures and other non-verbal signals are also important information carriers that are used skillfully.
You should therefore always consider all verbal statements made by your Hungarian business partners in the overall context. Contextual factors, such as the nature and duration of the relationship between the interlocutors, background information, or previous meetings are assumed to be known and reduce the proportion of explicitly spoken words in overall communication. As a result, you will need to put a lot of information together to form an overall picture. Feel free to ask for more information; Hungarians almost always have more background information!
Another characteristic of Hungary’s communication style is that Hungarians rarely go straight to the heart of the matter; a circular approach is far more common. Things are discussed, returned to later on and maybe even on the next day until the best possible result is reached.
This circular approach is often used for difficult topics as well. Sensitive points are cut short, dropped quickly and picked up again later. In this way, the relationship-oriented Hungarians try to avoid too much disagreement between the interlocutors.
Listen patiently to each new communication loop, as new aspects may emerge that will help you to move forward in your dealings.
Yes or no?
Hungarians will always avoid a direct and open “no”, because they want to maintain the harmony between the interlocutors. Therefore, Hungarians will sometimes say “yes” even though they mean “no”.
Pay particular attention to non-verbal signals, such as lack of motivation, passivity, resignation or silence, which actually mean “no”. Try to identify possible negative points from the context of the conversation.
Hungarians always place more value on the individual and the good relationship than on the issue itself. The threshold for expressing criticism is therefore extremely high. Hungary also makes little distinction between professional and personal roles. Therefore, a purely objective criticism will not be understood as such. Hungarians always take criticism personally and are therefore quickly offended.
A good way to express criticism in Hungary is with humour. With humorous hints, preferably in a discreet one-on-one conversation, you can skillfully address sensitive topics without hurting the other person.