Do's and Dont's for Negotiating Across Cultures

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Collective Bargaining > Forum > Do's and Dont's for Negotiating Across Cultures

Do's and Dont's for Negotiating Across Cultures
Eugene James, Manager, Switzerland, Premium Member
The complexity of cross cultural negotiation is daunting. Miscommunication can hinder or derail a deal. According to Erin Meyer, the challenge stems from an inability to read signals that reveal a frame of mind and emotions. A primary reason for not reading signals boils down to a lack of "contextual understanding" according to Meyer. She draws on her research to offer advice on negotiating cross culturally:
  1. BEG TO DIFFER TACTFULLY: prior to voicing disagreement, identify whether the counterpart uses "upgrades" in their communication such as definitely, surely, certainly or instead "downgraders" such as perhaps, possibly, likely. A greater use of upgraders implies greater room for debate and open disagreement. In contrast, a greater use of downgraders suggests reluctance to openly disagree and are thus less confrontational.
  2. EXPRESS EMOTIONS MINDFULLY: in some cultures emotions are openly expressed, while in others being open it is regarded as unprofessional. Thus accordingly adapt communication and responses. For instance avoid over-reacting to someone who is very expressive, while not taking offense by someone who is not overly emotional.
  3. CULTIVATE TRUST SUITABLY: trust emanates from a cognitive process or through affective sensitivity. In the former, one focuses on the task and interests. In the latter, one cultivates a relationship. In some cultures, it is necessary to first cultivate the relationship prior to talking about business.
  4. POSE OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS: it is tempting to expedite an agreement and to quickly get all answers. However in some cultures, a yes means no and vice versa. In order to avoid a yes-no dichotomy, pose open ended questions to iron out details step by step.
  5. VERIFY BEFORE SIGNING AN AGREEMENT: contracts are essential. However in some cultures contracts can represent merely a starting point. Thus be prepared to revise contracts along the way.
Source: Erin Meyer, "Getting to si, ja, oui, hai, and da", Harvard Business Review, December 2015.
 

     
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