When Two Cultures are Better Than One

By — on / Daily, Negotiation Skills

Adapted from “Coping with Culture at the Bargaining Table,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter.

Do you have firsthand experience navigating two cultures? Have you lived abroad for a significant period of time? Are you an immigrant, or were you raised by immigrants?

If you are “bicultural,” you may be an especially adept negotiator, research suggests. Researchers Carmit Tadmor and Philip E. Tetlock of the University of California, Berkeley, found that people with bicultural backgrounds engage in more complex thinking than those from a single cultural background.

Similarly, individuals who have lived abroad tend to be more creative than those who have not, William Maddux of INSEAD in France, Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University, and Gillian Ku of London Business School found in their research. Study participants who had lived abroad for at least six months were better at taking the other side’s perspective and reaching creative deals than those who had not lived abroad.

When you’re exposed to different cultures, you become sensitive to a variety of practices, customs, and perspectives. This sensitivity apparently translates into a keen ability to understand a counterpart’s motives and interests. That’s why it pays to have a bicultural individual on at least one side of the negotiating table.

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2 Responses to “When Two Cultures are Better Than One”

  • Russell R.

    I am a product of two cultures, and have lived in several countries. There is no doubt in my mind that being exposed to multiple operating environments (cultures) is an asset both at the negotiating table, but also in managing complex situations. I use the word linear vs. non-linear in how people approach problems, and the latter style is one which multicultural people tend to be particularly adept at, naturally!

  • Emmy I.

    As two heads are beter than one, also two cultures are better than one. If you are a negotiator this awareness and experience will enrich not only your life but your career.
    I am ‘bicultural’ and I can attest to the benefits of learning and borrowing from the ‘other’ culture.
    Very topical article. Remain blessed.


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