The diverse makeup of many societies and global nature of business today make cross-cultural negotiation a regular part of life. Unfortunately, many major disputes in need of resolution also cross ethnic and cultural lines. Communication and negotiation etiquette varies widely across cultures. In France, it is rude to talk money over dinner while in Brazil the American ‘A-OK’ gesture (thumb and forefinger forming a circle) can be a major insult. Understanding when, where, how and with whom it is appropriate to negotiate any given issue is extremely important to working across cultures. Negotiators and mediators should do their best to understand the cultural norms of other parties, and should be charitable in understanding that others have different norms from their own.
Role-play exercises available through the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) introduce some of the issues that can arise when negotiating across cultures, and how they might be addressed. In MedLee, representatives of an American medical equipment manufacturer and Thai distributor must negotiate the terms of a business agreement, with each party preparing individually and then working together to overcome cultural differences and foster a long-term relationship. Cross-cultural negotiation skills are also necessary within organizations. In Hiring a Newtonian, a Human Resources Director and newly hired computer programmer from a different country must work across the cultural divide to reach agreement on salary, benefits and start date. One Village, Six People puts participants in a tense meeting about competing land claims and local authority issues between Tutsi and Hutu residents of a small village after the Rwandan genocide.
Videos available through the TNRC illustrate effective practices. Negotiating in Today’s World is a comprehensive training tool for executives, officials and others engaged in cross-cultural negotiation. Books on cross-cultural negotiation are also available through the TNRC. Imagine Coexistence draws from numerous cases to illustrate what countries can do after violent ethnic conflict subsides to rebuild society.