Negotiating in Life December 14, 2009

Cross-Cultural Negotiations

Diplomats have always engaged in cross-cultural negotiations, since that is their specialty. But as more companies become multi-national, more business negotiators will have to learn the ins and outs of cross-cultural negotiation.

In cross-cultural negotiation, cultural differences and expectations add challenges to the negotiation process. No longer is it about discussing and reaching an agreement, but it is about being aware that what is appropriate in one culture may not be appropriate in another. The first rule of cross-cultural negotiations is to be aware that cultural differences exist and that they will affect how you communicate and deal with the other party.

More companies than ever are dealing with China. On the China Law blog, there is blog post entitled China Negotiating Strategy: An Expert’s Perspective, which lays out a few “rules” for dealing with Chinese businesses. For instance, rule number four tells us that normal contract rules in the United States are seen negatively in China, and the author says: “I have always had the sense that the typical Chinese company views the length of the contract as being inversely proportional to the strength of the relationship and though it is important that the contract have all of the critical terms, this is a big incentive to keep it as short as possible.”

Clearly, assumptions will be tested during a cross-cultural negotiation. In the example above, Americans may assume that business negotiators like and want a detailed contract, but the Chinese view such a document with suspicion.

Japan is another country where Americans frequently do business. Behavioral rules in Japan are much different from those in the United States, and these will influence how you negotiate. For example, according to this blog post about Cross Cultural Etiquette and Manners: Japan: “A Japanese person finds it difficult to use the word "no". He may respond with "yes" to most of your questions but that does not necessarily mean that he is agreeing; it may really be a "no". This knowledge will help you in carrying out business negotiations with Japanese.”

This week, the world will see first-hand how cultural differences impact negotiations during the United Nation Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, as 192 nations participate. Already, the AFP is reporting: “Analysts, though, stress the deep gap between the demands of developing countries and the willingness of rich countries to dig both into their pockets and into their carbon emissions.” (From: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jJ3RI164MEyRvQc0IpbGzzZDIccw)

Do you have any cross-cultural negotiation tips? Please share your insight in the comments.

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