What is a Cultural Negotiation?
Multicultural and cross-cultural negotiation requires a willingness to embrace your counterpart’s way of doing business.
Understanding the importance of negotiating respectfully with a counterpart should be paramount in any situation. When preparing for a cross-cultural negotiation, the same rules apply.
Unfortunately, dealmaking across cultures tends to lead to worse outcomes as compared with negotiations conducted within the same culture. The reason is primarily that cultures are characterized by different behaviors, communication styles, and norms. As a result, in cross-cultural negotiation, we bring different perspectives to the bargaining table, which in turn may result in potential misunderstandings. And these misunderstandings can lead to a lower likelihood of exploring and discovering integrative or value-creating solutions.
One thing that works in many negotiations, however, is sitting down for a meal. This is true in business and in high-level international negotiations. In many cultures, tackling the issues of a negotiation head-on neglects an important social element that is just as necessary for creating a lasting deal.
For example, when U.S. President Obama was at a state dinner with his counterpart in Buenos Aires, he and the other guests were treated to a tango, and suddenly the President was asked to join in. He quickly obliged, to the amazement of the onlookers. As much as any potential deals between the United States and Argentina, this simple act of participating in a respectful bridging across cultures had an immediate, and significant impact on the relationship between the two countries.
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