Cultural differences in negotiations


There appears to be no significant direct relationship between an individual’s personality and negotiation style, cultural background does seem to be relevant. 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 agreements, 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. Like the Japanese, the Chinese negotiate to develop a relationship and a commitment to work together rather than to tie up every loose end.

Americans are known around the world for their impatience and their desire to be liked. Astute negotiators from others countries often turn these characteristics to their advantage by dragging out negotiations and making friendship conditional on the final settlement

The cultural context of the negotiations significantly influences the amount and type of preparation for bargaining, the relative emphasis on task versus inter-personal 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 influence of culture on business negotiations.

The first study compared North Americans, Arabs, and Russians. Among the factors that were 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 to persuade by relying on 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 opponent’s arguments with subjective feelings. They made concessions throughout the bargaining process and almost always reciprocated opponents’ concessions. Arabs approached deadlines very casually.

The Russians based their arguments on asserted ideals. They made few concessions . Any concession 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 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 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 than the North Americans and the Japanese. Finally, while the Japanese and the North Americans had no physical contact with their opponents during negotiations except for handshaking, the Brazilians touched each other almost five times every half-hour.