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.
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
When two groups are embroiled in a conflict, it is common for the party with less power to have difficulty convincing the more powerful party to sit down at the negotiating table in international negotiations. Think of a labor union that wants to convince company management to agree to pay increases. In such cases, the … Read More
How to overcome cultural barriers to communication: As members of organizations and families, we all know from experience that even people with identical backgrounds can have vastly different negotiating styles and values. Nonetheless, we continue to be intrigued by the idea that distinct patterns emerge between negotiators from different cultures. … Read More
Communication in negotiation scenarios is the means by which negotiators achieve objectives, build relationships, and resolve disputes. Communication becomes even more important when negotiating counterparts are from different cultures. The following question was posed to our Negotiation newsletter editorial board and Program on Negotiation faculty member Jeswald Salacuse offers his insights. … Read More
Violations of sacred values can bring negotiations to an abrupt halt. But it’s important to determine if the values are really sacred. Sacredness exists when a person would never make a tradeoff on a particular issue. … Read More
Cross cultural negotiation examples provide insights into how negotiation techniques change depending on the context in which negotiators find themselves. As Professor Cheryl Rivers of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, points out in a recent negotiation research literature review, seasoned negotiators often hear stories about the unethical behaviors of people of other nationalities. … Read More
What special insights do outsiders need to prepare for international negotiations in China? Much of what you know already about negotiation holds true, but four characteristics complicate business negotiation in China. … Read More
Although most Americans treat those they know differently than they treat strangers, Chinese behavior towards insiders and outsiders tends to be more extreme than in the United States – and therefore more important in negotiations in China than many Americans understand. … Read More
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Understanding how to arrange the meeting space is a key aspect of preparing for negotiation. In this video, Professor Guhan Subramanian discusses a real world example of how seating arrangements can influence a negotiator’s success. This discussion was held at the 3 day executive education workshop for senior executives at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
Guhan Subramanian is the Professor of Law and Business at the Harvard Law School and Professor of Business Law at the Harvard Business School.