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.
Even with a common language and the best of intentions, business negotiators from different cultures face special challenges. Try these solutions for avoiding intercultural barriers when preparing for negotiation between two companies from different cultures:
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
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.
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
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
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.
When figuring out how to deal with cultural differences in negotiation, it helps to consider the cultural prototypes represented at the bargaining table—but individual differences count, as well.
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
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
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
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
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
Many U.S. law schools are in crisis, to hear some tell it. To combat economic downturns, many law firms instituted policies of mass layoffs and pay cuts. Years after the 2008 financial recession, few have recovered.
The practice of using alcohol to grease the wheels has a long and storied role in famous negotiations. In recent decades, shared drinks during adversarial bargaining helped lead to breakthroughs in conflicts in Serbia and Northern Ireland, for example.
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.
Whether dealing with difficult or hard bargainers like Putin or forging business partnerships, international negotiations are fraught with a level of complexity rarely encountered in everyday negotiations. Here are the top ten international negotiation articles on the Program on Negotiation’s website.