Dangers of Stereotypes in International Negotiations

The images of John Wayne- the cowboy and the samurai- the fierce warrior often are used as cultural stereotypes in discussions of international business negotiations. Such representatives almost always convey a grain of truth, an American cowboy kind of competitiveness versus a samurai kind of organizational (company) loyalty. One Dutch expert on international business negotiation argues, the best negotiators are the Japanese because they will spend days trying to get to know their opponents. The worst thing with the Americans is because they think everything works in foreign countries as it does in the USA. There are of course many Americans who are excellent international negotiators and some Japanese who are ineffective. The point is that negotiations are not conducted between national stereotypes, negotiations conducted between people and cultural factors often make huge differences.

Recall our discussion in the article on the cultural diversity within countries and consider its relevance to negotiation. For example, we might expect substantial differences in negotiation styles between the English speaking and French speaking Canadians. The gentle style of talk prevalent in the Americans Deep South is quite different from the faster speech patterns and pushiness more common in places like New York City. Experts tell us that negotiation styles differ across genders in America as well. Still others tell us that the urbane negotiation behaviors of Japanese bankers are very different from the relative aggressiveness of those in the retail industry in that country. Finally age and experience can also make important differences. The older Chinese executive with no experience dealing with foreigners is likely to behave quite differently from her young assistant with undergraduate and MBA degrees from American universities.

The focus of this article is culture’s influence on International negotiation behavior. However, it should be clearly understood that individual personalities and background and a variety of situational factors also heavily influence behavior at the negotiation table and it is the manager’s responsibility to consider these factors. Remember companies and countries do not negotiate, people do. Consider the culture of your customers and business partners, but treat them as individuals.

The Pervasive Impact on negotiation behavior:

The primary part of this section is to demonstrate the extent of cultural differences in negotiation styles and how these differences can cause problems in international business negotiation. The material in this section is based on a systematic study of the topic over the last three decades in which the negotiation styles of more then 1,000 business people in 16 countries (19 cultures) were considered. The countries studied were Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China (Tianjin, Guangzhou and Hong Kong), the Philippines, Russia, Norway the Czech Republic, Germany, France , the United kingdom, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Canada (English speaking and French speaking) and the United States. The countries were chosen because they constitute America’s most important present and future trading partners.

Looking broadly across the several cultures two important lessons stand out. The first is that regional generalizations very often are not correct. For example Japanese and Korean negotiation styles are quite similar in some ways but in other ways they could not be more different. The second lesson learned from this study is that Japan is an exceptional place: On almost every dimension of negotiation style considered the Japanese are on or near the end of the scale. Sometimes Americans are on the other end. But actually most of the time Americans are somewhere in the middle. The reader will see this evinced in the data presented in this section. The Japanese approach, however, is most distinct even sui generis.
Source: International Marketing