Business Negotiation July 14, 2014

Chinese Attitudes and Approaches Toward the Process of Negotiating Differences

Chinese civilization flourished when we in the Western world still wore bearskins.   Through millennia of prosperity and hard times they have learned to place great value on patience, perseverance, hard work and thrift...

Chinese civilization flourished when we in the Western world still wore bearskins.  Through millennia of prosperity and hard times they have learned to place great value on patience, perseverance, hard work and thrift.  These values affect how they deal with each other in the marketplace and with foreign negotiators in international affairs.

Many of the negotiating approaches that the Chinese practice in business affairs serve to reduce disagreements before they become unmanageable.  These approaches toward dealing with people are just as applicable when handling workplace disputes.  They have evolved over the centuries as culturally acceptable techniques for resolving internal conflicts in a face-saving and friendlier way.

When negotiating a difficult or complex problem, the Chinese prefer to discuss issues at great length.  They find it useful to haggle over less important matters and spend lots of time getting to know and trust one another on a personal level.  The context of the deal and the conversations surrounding it substitute, in many ways, for the absence of a well-established Chinese legal system to settle contentious issues that may arise later.  This differs markedly from the Western world, which relies on detailed written contracts and an adversarial legal system to settle disputes.

For the Chinese the process of negotiating is as important as the agreement, the ways of dealing as important as the ends; the give and take of bargaining, concessions, context and information exchange more important that the words in the contract.  Long-term harmony is often more important than profit. Likewise, good relationships are more valuable than short-term outcome.

Most American business executives prefer to not spend much time on “non-task” talk when engaging in business with others.  They generally consider time spend on lengthy dinners and all night heavy drinking sessions to be of limited value.  Not so the Chinese.  They feel that personal talk in social setting cements relationships and softens disagreements in ways that purely task-directed talk cannot.

The Chinese are reluctant to say “no” in almost any social or business situation. In negotiation, the word “no” is rarely heard in response to any request, idea, viewpoint or proposal offered them no matter how much they dislike it.  Americans, on the other hand, say “no” too quickly, sometimes before they even understand what has been expressed.
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