International Negotiation

International negotiation requires the ability to meet special challenges and deal with the unknown. Even those experienced in cross-cultural communication can sometimes work against their own best interests during international negotiations. Skilled business negotiators know how to analyze each situation, set up negotiations in ways that are advantageous for their side, cope with cultural differences, deal with foreign bureaucracies, and manage the international negotiation process to reach a deal.

The Program on Negotiation notes that in any international negotiation, several critical tactics should be considered:

  • Research your counterpart’s background and experience.
  • Enlist an adviser from your counterpart’s culture.
  • Pay close attention to unfolding negotiation dynamics.

Researchers have confirmed a relationship between national culture and negotiation style and success. An ongoing project sponsored by Northwestern University’s Dispute Resolution Research Center is exploring the link between process and outcomes—specifically, how cultural tendencies lead to certain process choices, which, in turn, can lead to better or worse negotiation results.

For example, while conventional wisdom tends to hold that there’s strength in numbers, some cultures may dislike being faced with a sizeable negotiating team, poisoning the negotiations right from the start.

At the same time, diplomatic negotiations, such as those between the U.S. and Iran over nuclear capabilities, can be quite different from business negotiations. For example, it’s critical to maintain a reputation for impartiality, and to be aware how your international goals potentially interact and contradict, so you can establish a consistent stance in your relations with groups you are trying to woo.

Finally, due to the enormous influence of China in today’s world markets, PON offers numerous insights into Chinese negotiation styles, which include a strong emphasis on relationships, a lack of interest in ironclad contracts, a slow dealmaking process and widespread opportunism.


Click here to download your copy of International Negotiations: Cross-Cultural Communication Skills for International Business Executives from
 the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Cross Cultural Negotiations in International Business: Four Negotiation Tips for Bargaining in China

PON Staff   •  05/24/2016   •  Filed in International Negotiation

China is a vast, rapidly changing country bursting with economic opportunity for locals and foreigners alike. Since market reforms began in 1979, real GDP growth has averaged 9% annually. It’s no wonder that American entrepreneurs are traveling to China in droves to open plants, hawk cell phones and cars, and create new partnerships – and … Read More 

Negotiation Analysis: The US, Taliban, and the Bergdahl Exchange

PON Staff   •  05/19/2016   •  Filed in International Negotiation

The exchange between the United States and the Taliban of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, represented the first public prisoner exchange of a US soldier in the thirteen year US involvement in Afghanistan. The background of the deal including how Private First Class Bergdahl (promoted twice to Sergeant … Read More 

Examples of Negotiation in Real Life: Overcoming Cultural Barriers at the Negotiation Table in International Negotiations

PON Staff   •  05/16/2016   •  Filed in International Negotiation

Imagine that you’re the American representative of a U.S. food company, and you’re hoping to procure a new ingredient for several of your products from a German company. A representative from the company is flying in to meet with you. Do you expect your German counterpart to behave differently than the Americans you typically deal … Read More 

Best Negotiators in History: Nelson Mandela and His Negotiation Style

Susan Hackley   •  05/10/2016   •  Filed in International Negotiation

The late Nelson Mandela will certainly be remembered as one of the best negotiators in history. He was clearly “the greatest negotiator of the twentieth century,” wrote Harvard Law School professor and Program on Negotiation Chairman Robert H. Mnookin in his seminal book, Bargaining with the Devil, When to Negotiate, When to Fight. … Read More 

How to Overcome Cultural Barriers to Communication in International Negotiations

PON Staff   •  04/26/2016   •  Filed in International Negotiation

Negotiators faced with the task of bargaining with international counterparts often ask about strategies on how to overcome cultural barriers to communication at the bargaining table. This article draws on findings from negotiation research to offer negotiating skills and negotiation tips for negotiators dealing with counterparts from a different culture or who speak a different … Read More 

Modest Goals Gave Hope to Syria Peace talks

Katie Shonk   •  04/05/2016   •  Filed in International Negotiation

In international negotiations and other complex multiparty negotiations, should you set ambitious goals right from the start or begin with more modest ones?

Aiming high can lead to dramatic payoffs if you succeed, but the difficulty of orchestrating complicated international negotiations can increase the risk of impasse. By contrast, starting with more modest goals may suggest … Read More 

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