Learn how to negotiate like a diplomat, think on your feet like an improv performer, and master job offer negotiation like a professional athlete when you download a copy of our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


overcoming cultural barriers

What is overcoming cultural barriers?

Some of the most fundamental international negotiation skills to develop are negotiation strategies for overcoming cultural barriers in communication.

If you have experience negotiating across cultures, then you know that misunderstandings and even conflict based on cultural differences come up from time to time. Unfortunately, we tend to overuse stereotypes when thinking about overcoming cultural barriers. 

If you’re like most people, you wisely understand that cultural differences are likely to be a factor in negotiations. According to anthropologists, cultural differences often spring from our different histories: the varying geographical, political, and economic conditions in which our ancestors found themselves. 

Yet research suggests that negotiators, to their detriment, may give too much weight to cultural factors when preparing for talks.

When negotiators from different cultures meet, they may try overcoming cultural differences by adapting their behavior in an attempt to match their counterpart’s cultural style. A survey by Wendi L. Adair of the University of Waterloo, Canada, for example, found that experienced American and Japanese business negotiators adjusted their negotiating style too far toward the other side’s culture, resulting in confusion and misunderstandings.

Ironically, our efforts to understand one another can drive us apart. However, when it comes to overcoming cultural differences, more variance often exists within cultures than between them. Negotiators should seek out information about both individual and cultural differences. 

Throughout your interactions, continue to look beyond culture, striving to learn about your counterparts as individuals.

Discover how to refine your negotiation skills with this free special report, Negotiation Training: Overcoming Cultural Barriers in Negotiations, 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 advice and information on how to improve your business negotiation skills to our website.

The following items are tagged overcoming cultural barriers:

The Negotiation Process in China

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

With its booming economy and growing international consumer influence, the role of negotiation in international business is more important than ever and negotiation skills appropriate for China are in high-demand. Here are a few negotiation tips to help you successfully navigate your next round of business negotiations in China. … Read More 

Dispute Resolution for India and Bangladesh

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

Sometimes in international negotiation, disputes are left to fester for years, even decades, until parties decide there is something to be gained from reaching agreement. In an example of a cross cultural negotiation case study, the nations of Bangladesh and India seized on an opportunity to push the “restart” button on their bumpy relationship by … Read More 

Overcoming Cultural Barriers in Negotiation: China and the Gold Rush Mentality

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

If Chinese culture favors insiders, it stands to reason that outsiders face an uphill battle. In One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China (Free Press, 2005), business executive and Wall Street Journal bureau chief James McGregor writes of the 1996 attempt by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, to … Read More 

How to Negotiate with Difficult People: International Negotiation, and a Refusal to Communicate

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

Business negotiators sometimes face the difficult question of whether to negotiate with someone they believe to be immoral, untrustworthy, or otherwise undesirable as a negotiating partner. In his book Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight (Simon & Schuster, 2011), Program on Negotiation chair Robert Mnookin offers negotiation advice on the complex … Read More 

Negotiating with Millennials – How to Overcome Cultural Differences in Communication

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

Negotiation training often focuses on bridging gaps between negotiators with different styles, backgrounds, or objectives, but what about overcoming generational barriers in negotiation? Generational differences need not stymie efforts at the bargaining table. In this segment from “Dear Negotiation Coach,” we explore how to overcome cultural differences in communication with members of the Millennial generation. … Read More 

Negotiation Case Studies: The Bangladesh Factory-Safety Agreements

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

We can learn a lot from negotiation case studies. On April 24, 2013 an eight-story building in Bangladesh known as Rana Plaza collapsed, killing an estimated 1,129 people, many of them low-wage garment workers who made goods for foreign companies. In the weeks after the disaster, apparel outsourcers faced mounting public pressure to address hazardous conditions … Read More 

Business Team Building: The Value of Self-Reflection

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

Exercises designed to build trust and rapport are often touted as the key to business team building and improved business skills. Such exercises—from falling backwards into the arms of teammates to competing in scavenger hunts—can be effective at onboarding new employees, overcoming cultural barriers, and strengthening existing teams. But not all business team building efforts need … Read More 

10 Popular Business Negotiation Articles

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

Here are ten popular business negotiation articles on the Program on Negotiation website. Drawn from a variety of negotiation case studies as well as negotiation research, the following articles offer strategies for engaging in integrative negotiations aimed at creating win-win scenarios for each party at the negotiation table. 1. What is the Right of First Refusal? Rights … Read More 

What is the Multi-Door Courthouse Concept

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

As a collaboration between UST School of Law and the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, the following is the transcript of a conversation between the creator of the multi-door courthouse, Harvard Law Professor Frank E.A. Sander, and the executive director and founder of the University of St. Thomas (UST) International ADR [Alternative Dispute … Read More 

Top International Negotiation Case Studies in Business: The Microsoft-Nokia Deal

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

International negotiation brings on more challenges than most. On September 3, 2013, Microsoft announced a deal to acquire Finnish mobile phone company Nokia’s handset and services business for $7.2 billion, the New York Times reported. The agreement marked a belated but bold move by Microsoft to upgrade its presence in handheld devices and signals an … Read More 

Overcoming Cultural Barriers in Negotiations: The Importance of Culture and Etiquette in Bargaining Scenarios

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

Learn how and when to engage in appropriate cultural traditions when negotiating with counterparts from a different culture. In this article we offer negotiation tips for overcoming cultural barriers in negotiation and present additional articles drawn from negotiation research that may be of benefit to negotiators who need to improve their international negotiation skills. … Read More