Exchanging Information

Exchanging information across language barriers can be quite difficult as well. Most of us understand about 80 to 90 per cent of what our same culture spouses or roommates say that means 10 to 20 per cent is misunderstood or is misleading. That latter percentage goes up dramatically when someone is speaking a second language no matter the fluency levels or length of acquaintances. And when the second language capability is limited, the entire conversation may be totally misunderstood. Using multiple communication channels during presentations – writing, exhibits, speaking, repetition works to minimize the inevitable error.
In many cultures negative feedback is very difficult to obtain. In high context cultures such as Mexico and Japan, speakers are reluctant to voice objections lest they damage the all-important personal relationships. Some languages themselves are by nature indirect and indefinite. English is relatively clear but translations from languages like Japanese can leave much to be understood. In more collectivistic cultures like China, negotiators may be reluctant to speak for the decision making group they represent or they may not even know how the group feels about a particular proposal. All such problems suggest the importance of having natives of customer countries on your negotiation team and of spending extra time in business an informal entertainment settings trying to understand better the information provided by foreign clients and partner. Conversely low context German executives often complain that American presentations include too much fluff they are interested in copious information only, not the hyperbole and hedges so common in American speech. Negative feedback from Germans can seem brutally frank to higher context Americans.
A final point of potential conflict information exchange has to do with first offers. Price padding varies cross culture and Americans first offers tend to come relatively close to what they really want. A million dollars is the goal let’s start at $1.2 million seems about right to most Americans. Implicit in such a first offer is the hope that things will get done quickly. Americans do not expect to move far from first offers. Negotiators in many other countries do not share the goal of finishing quickly. In places like China, Brazil or Spain the expectation is for a relatively longer period of haggling and first others are more aggressive to reflect these expectations. If the goal is one million we better start at two makes sense there. Americans react to such aggressive first offers in one of the two ways: They either laugh or get mad. And when foreign counterparts’ second offers reflect deep discounts the Americans’ ire increases.
A good example of this problem is an American CEO shopping for a European plant site. When he selected a $20 million plot in Ireland the Spanish real estate developer he had visited earlier called wondering why the American had not asked for a lower price for the Madrid site before choosing Dublin. He told the Spaniard that his first offer wasn’t even in the ballpark. He wasn’t laughing when the Spaniard then offered to beat the Irish price. In fact, the American executive was quite mad. A potentially good deal was forgone because of different expectations about first offers. Yes, numbers were exchanged but information was not. Aggressive first offers made by foreigners should be met with questions not anger.
Persuasion: In Japan, a clear separation does not exist between task related information exchange and persuasion. The two stages tend to blend together as each side defines and refines its needs and preferences. Much time is spent in the task related exchange of information, leaving little to argue about during the persuasion stage.
Source: International Marketing

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