Even with a common language and the best of intentions, business negotiators from different cultures face special challenges. Try these solutions for avoiding intercultural barriers when preparing for negotiation between two companies from different cultures:
1. Research your counterpart’s background and experience.
For help in overcoming cultural barriers in business, do a little homework to learn who your negotiating partner will be and find out some details about her background and experience. If your counterpart has a great deal of international negotiating experience, you can probably assume that cultural stereotyping (and any effort to modify your negotiating strategy accordingly) is likely to create new communication difficulties rather than solve old ones. If you have trouble getting information about your negotiating partner, ask an intermediary with contacts at that firm or organization to make inquiries for you. (Be sure the intermediary understands that he is not authorized to make any commitments on your behalf.)
2. Enlist an adviser from your counterpart’s culture.
If you discover that the person with whom you are likely to be negotiating has little or no international or cross-cultural experience, consider enlisting someone from his culture to serve as your “second” in negotiations. Rather than deferring to this adviser during talks, plan out signals in advance to indicate when you should take a break for additional advice. In this manner, your cultural “guide” can help you size up the situation, coach you as needed, and even interject if he feels you have made an egregious error or misinterpretation.
Discover step-by-step techniques for avoiding common business negotiation pitfalls when you download a copy of the FREE special report, Business Negotiation Strategies: How to Negotiate Better Business Deals, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.