Cultural Differences in Negotiations

Negotiating styles clearly vary across national cultures. The French like conflict. They frequently gain recognition and develop their reputations by thinking and acting against others. As a result, the French tend to take a long time in negotiating agreement and they aren’t overly concerned about whether their opponents like or dislike them. The Chinese also draw out negotiations but that’s because they believe negotiations never end. Just when you think you’ve pinned down every detail and reached a final solution with a Chinese executive that executive might smile and start the process all over again. The Chinese and the Japanese too negotiate to develop a relationship and a commitment to work together rather than to tie up every loose end. Compared to American negotiators the Japanese communicate indirectly and adapt their behaviors to the situations. Americans are known around the world for their impatience and their desire to be liked. Astute negotiators from other countries often turn these characteristics to their advantage by dragging out negotiations and making friendship conditional in the final settlement.

The cultural context of negotiation significantly influences the amount and type of preparation for bargaining the relative emphasis on task versus interpersonal relationships, the tactics used, and even where the negotiation should be conducted. To further illustrate some of these differences, let’s look at two studies that compare the influences of cultures on business negotiations

The first study compared North Americans, Arabs and Russians. Among the factors looked at were their negotiating style, how they responded to an opponent’s arguments, their approach to making concessions and how they handled negotiating deadlines. North Americans tried it persuade by relying in facts and appealing to logic. They countered opponents’ arguments with objective facts. They made small concessions early in the negotiation to establish a relationship and usually reciprocated opponent’s concessions. North Americans treated deadlines as very important. The Arabs tried to persuade by appealing to emotion. They countered opponents’ arguments with subjective feelings. They made concessions throughout the bargaining process and almost always reciprocated opponents’ concessions. Arabs approached deadlines very casually. The Russian based their arguments on asserted ideals. They made few, if any, concessions. Any concessions offered by an opponent was viewed as a weakness and almost never reciprocated. Finally the Russians tended to ignore deadlines.

The second study looked at verbal and nonverbal negotiation tactics exhibited by North Americans, Japanese, and Brazilians during half hour bargaining sessions. Some of the differences were particularly interesting. For instance, the Brazilians on average said ‘NO’ 83 times, compared to 5 times for the Japanese and 9 times for the North Americans. The Japanese displayed more than 5 periods of silence lasting longer than 10 seconds during the 30 minute sessions. North Americans averaged 3.5 such periods; the Brazilians had none. The Japanese and North Americans interrupted their opponent about the same number of times, but the Brazilians interrupted 2.5 to 3 times more often that of the North Americans and the Japanese, Finally the Japanese and the North Americans had no physical contact with their opponents during negotiations except for handshaking, but the Brazilians touched each other almost five times every half hour.

Now that you know more about the different types of bargaining strategies, the negotiations process in general, and contemporary issues in negotiations, do you think you could negotiate with the best of them? Take the self assessments to learn about your negotiating style.

Why American Managers might have Trouble in Cross Cultural Negotiations?

1. Italians, Germans and French don’t soften up executives with praise before they criticize. Americans do, and to any European this seems manipulative.
2. Israelis accustomed to fast paced meetings, have no patience for American small talk.
3. British executives often complain that their US counterparts chatter too much.
4. Indian executives are used to interrupting one another. When Americans listen without asking for clarification or posting questions, Indians can feel Americans aren’t paying attention.
5. Americans often mix their business and personal lives. They think nothing for instance about asking a colleague a question like, how was your week end? In many cultures such question is seen as intrusive because business and private are totally compartmentalized.