What is International Negotiation?
Parties engaged in international negotiation face tough problems when there is a lack a solid understanding of a counterpart’s culture.
Like any differences between groups, cultural differences are usually small, on average. Nonetheless, when we prepare for an international negotiation, we tend to overuse the stereotypes that arise from these small differences, and these stereotypes block us from noting important individuating information.
Cultural barriers to communication in negotiation don’t hinge precisely on where a negotiator happens to have been born. Rather, they depend on what that negotiator does at the bargaining table. The ability to engage in constructive communication – by revealing and interpreting information – matters much more than the negotiator’s passport.
When determining your international negotiation strategies, keep in mind that your strategies may need to be different from those you use at home.
It’s also worth noting that during an international negotiation, even when negotiators believe they sincerely want to reach an outcome that is fair to all, their perceptions of what constitutes a fair agreement are likely to be self-serving. As a result, they are likely to believe they deserve a greater share of a given resource than an unbiased observer would judge to be fair.
So how much emphasis should you place on culture when you’re preparing for an international negotiation? On the one hand, you don’t want to offend your counterpart with insensitive behavior. On the other hand, focusing too much on culture can backfire, especially if the other side is doing the same.
These six guidelines should help you strike the right balance:
- Consider the individual.
- Broaden your scope and adopt a more inclusive mindset.
- Work to build trust.
- Ask questions and share information.
- Demonstrate principles of good-faith bargaining.
- Do what you can to reduce stress at the bargaining table, whether by taking breaks or extending deadlines.
To learn more about international negotiation strategies, download this free report, International Negotiation: Cross-Cultural Communication Skills for International Business Executives, from Harvard Law School.
We will send you a download link to your copy of the report and notify you by email when we post new business negotiation advice and information on how to improve your dealmaking skills to our website.
The following items are tagged international negotiation: