Different Cross-Cultural Negotiating Methods

Understanding how to properly integrate your own personal negotiation style into a cross-cultural setting is vital for success in global markets. Make sure you do your research before you engage in a negotiation with someone from a different culture.

The following tips should serve you well prior to any future cross-cultural negotiation:

1) Learn a bit about the culture you are going to be negotiating with – go online, read books or even better find someone from that culture willing to answer questions.

2) Understand their expectations from the negotiation process – prior to the meeting, pick up the phone or send an email with an agenda and some ideas on what you seek to achieve in order to prompt similar preferences from the other side.

3) Be clear with yourself about the stance and strategy you are going to take – if you feel you need to adopt a new strategy, i.e. being more relationship focused rather than business orientated or listening more than talking, then make sure you sit down and think it all through.

4) Don’t jump to assumptions and conclusions in the negotiation process – if someone says or does something that seems really odd, the chances are it isn’t. Think about possible cultural reasons behind the behavior and try not to rationalize according to your own view of the world.

5) If you sense confusion always clarify and re-check for understanding – when it’s impossible to work out what’s going on, put the brakes on and ask. Simply expressing your willingness to learn or show sensitivity can lead to good things.

6) Speak slower, avoid fancy language and keep it simple – always, always, always temper your language. Think how you would feel being in another country trying to negotiate in another language.

7) Use your active listening skills – it’s always a good policy to ask questions, sit back and listen to the answers. The more you let the other party speak, the more information you will have to use to your advantage.

8) Explain the decision making process from your side and ask for them to clarify theirs – who makes the decisions tends to differ from culture to culture. In more hierarchical countries, it is usually always the boss who has the final say. Outline how it works from your end and elicit the same from them so you are able to plug any potential gaps in terms of information or next steps.

9) Pay attention to potential gender dynamics – if you are working across cultures and genders, make sure you are fully aware of any sensitivities. For example, some Muslims tend not to shake hands with the opposite sex. In some cultures they may assume that the woman present is not of consequence whereas in reality they may be the decision maker.

10)Keep it professional no matter how challenging it may get – even if the negotiations are testing your patience always remain courteous and keep it to business. Some cultures like to test and prod the other party to gauge their trustworthiness factor. Others may take any loss of temper as disrespectful and soon kill off any further discussions.

To conclude, every culture has a different way of viewing the world and therefore a different way of negotiating.

There are some cultures that like to have a team of negotiators rather than just a single negotiator. Other cultures want to create a friendly relationship. That is to say, they may want to know the person with whom they’re doing business. Others care little about the people and just want the contract signed or price agreed. There are cultures that like to stay silent and others that have a penchant for storming out of negotiations. Some cultures see the negotiation as a battle that must be won; others want a win-win outcome.

These differences stem from cultural backgrounds. Thus, understanding differences can prevent misunderstanding between individuals and create mutually beneficial business relationships.


Recommended Textbooks & Resources

1. Hofstede G., (1980). Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

2. Hall E.T., (1981). Beyond Culture: Perspective in Practice (2nd. ed.), Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday

3. Lewicki, R., Saunders, D., Minton, J. And Barry, B. 2006. Negotiations. New Yourk: McGraw-Hill Irving.

4.Lewicki, R. 2011. Essentials of Negotiations. New Yourk: McGraw-Hill Irving.

5. Roger Fisher and William L. Ury, Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Penguin Group (1981)

6. Salacuse, J.W. 2003. The Global Negotiator: Making, Managing and Mending Deals Around the World in the Twenty-first Century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

7. Salacuse, J.W., Negotiating: The Top Ten Ways That Culture Can Affect Your Negotiation, IBJ (2004).

8. Thomson, L.L. 2005. The Mind and Heart of the Negotiator. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education International.

9. Trompenaars, A., Wooloams, P. (2003) Business Across Cultures. Oxford: Capstone.




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