KARRASS Effective Negotiating® Tip

Culture’s Impact on Negotiations   
By Dr. Chester L. Karrass

Willingness to take negotiating risks varies widely by culture.

Where some cultures may find it perfectly acceptable to ask for much more than they need (i.e. they leave a lot of room to negotiate), another culture reacts to this approach negatively (i.e. they are lying to us, we do not trust them). Some cultures are very individualistic, while other cultures are collective or group oriented.  Some cultures prefer a direct negotiating style while others prefer an indirect approach (i.e. via intermediaries or third parties).  In some cultures decisions are made by consensus so no single person has to take responsibility.

A particular cultural influence, or approach to negotiations may be defined by geography, nationality, or company.  Cultures vary from organization to organization.  It is important to know who you are dealing with and how they prefer to negotiate.

When dealing internationally, Western negotiators (i.e. from Europe or North America) generally prefer an organized, point-by-point, issue-by-issue approach to their negotiations.  Some Asian cultures (particularly China) take a more holistic approach to negotiation; often jumping from one issue to another totally unrelated issue; then back to change a point that everyone had already agreed to; and then off to another issue.  This type of cultual disorde can confuse an uninformed Western style negotiator.  It hinders their ability to keep track of where they are in the negotiation and often is perceived as simply a tactic to gain an advantage.  In fact, this seemingly disorderly approach is generally purely culturally based.

Understand the influence 'Culture' has on your negotiations.  It does not matter if you are negotiating with a co-worker inside your own organization, a supplier, or a customer.  Start by having a good understanding or your own cultural bias and how your negotiating approach may differ from that of the other party.  Once you learn the cultural differences, don't just adapt yourself to the other party's culture.  Learn ways to make the most of these cultural differences to craft more creative agreements.  A good understanding of various cultural approaches to negotiating is to your advantage.