Cross Cultural Negotiations

Cross cultural negotiation is one of many specialized areas within the wider field of cross cultural communications. By taking cross cultural negotiation training, negotiators and sales personnel give themselves an advantage over competitors.

There is an argument that proposes that culture is inconsequential to cross cultural negotiation. It maintains that as long as a proposal is financially attractive it will succeed. However, this is a naïve way of approaching international business.

Let us look at a brief example of how cross cultural negotiation training can benefit the international business person:

There are two negotiators dealing with the same potential client in the Middle East. Both have identical proposals and packages. One ignores the importance of cross cultural negotiation training believing the proposal will speak for itself. The other undertakes some cross cultural training. He/she learns about the culture, values, beliefs, etiquette and approaches to business, meetings and negotiations. Nine times out of ten the latter will succeed over the rival.

This is because 1) it is likely they would have endeared themselves more to the host negotiation team and 2) they would be able to tailor their approach to the negotiations in a way that maximises the potential of a positive outcome.

Cross cultural negotiations is about more than just how foreigners close deals. It involves looking at all factors that can influence the proceedings. By way of highlighting this, a few brief examples of topics covered in cross cultural negotiation training shall be offered.

Eye Contact : In the US, UK and much of northern Europe, strong, direct eye contact conveys confidence and sincerity. In South America it is a sign of trustworthiness. However, in some cultures such as the Japanese, prolonged eye contact is considered rude and is generally avoided.

Personal Space & Touch: In Europe and North America, business people will usually leave a certain amount of distance between themselves when interacting. Touching only takes place between friends. In South America or the Middle East, business people are tactile and like to get up close. In Japan or China, it is not uncommon for people to leave a gap of four feet when conversing. Touching only takes place between close friends and family members.

Time: Western societies are very ‘clock conscious’. Time is money and punctuality is crucial. This is also the case in countries such as Japan or China where being late would be taken as an insult. However, in South America, southern Europe and the Middle East, being on time for a meeting does not carry the same sense of urgency.

Meeting & Greeting: most international business people meet with a handshake. In some countries this is not appropriate between genders. Some may view a weak handshake as sign of weakness whereas others would perceive a firm handshake as aggressive. How should people be addressed? Is it by first name, surname or title? Is small talk part of the proceedings or not?

Gift-Giving: In Japan and China gift-giving is an integral part of business protocol however in the US or UK, it has negative connotations. Where gifts are exchanged should one give lavish gifts? Are they always reciprocated? Should they be wrapped? Are there numbers or colours that should be avoided?

All the above in one way or another will impact cross cultural negotiation and can only be learnt through cross cultural training. Doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, poor communication and cross cultural misunderstandings can all have harmful consequences.

Cross cultural negotiation training builds its foundations upon understanding etiquettes and approaches to business abroad before focusing on cross cultural differences in negotiation styles and techniques.

There are three interconnected aspects that need to be considered before entering into cross cultural negotiation.

The Basis of the Relationship: in much of Europe and North America, business is contractual in nature. Personal relationships are seen as unhealthy as they can cloud objectivity and lead to complications. In South America and much of Asia, business is personal. Partnerships will only be made with those they know, trust and feel comfortable with. It is therefore necessary to invest in relationship building before conducting business.

Information at Negotiations: Western business culture places emphasis on clearly presented and rationally argued business proposals using statistics and facts. Other business cultures rely on similar information but with differences. For example, visual and oral communicators such as the South Americans may prefer information presented through speech or using maps, graphs and charts.

Negotiation Styles: the way in which we approach negotiation differs across cultures. For example, in the Middle East rather than approaching topics sequentially negotiators may discuss issues simultaneously.

South Americans can become quite vocal and animated. The Japanese will negotiate in teams and decisions will be based upon consensual agreement. In Asia, decisions are usually made by the most senior figure or head of a family. In China, negotiators are highly trained in the art of gaining concessions. In Germany, decisions can take a long time due to the need to analyse information and statistics in great depth. In the UK, pressure tactics and imposing deadlines are ways of closing deals whilst in Greece this would backfire.

Clearly there are many factors that need to be considered when approaching cross cultural negotiation. Through cross cultural negotiation training, business personnel are given the appropriate knowledge that can help them prepare their presentations and sales pitches effectively. By tailoring your behaviour and the way you approach the negotiation you will succeed in maximising your potential.

Why Head Nodding Is Really Powerful In A Negotiation – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but his head nodding really affected me during the negotiation. I almost felt like I was hypnotized.” That’s the power of head nodding in a #negotiation.

If used right, head nodding can be a really powerful gesture in a negotiation. If used excessively, it can give the appearance of a know-it-all that knows a lot about nothing but thinks he does; that could give the impression that the person doing the nodding is self-centered, egotistical or a BS artist.

Continue reading to discover why, if done right, head nodding in a negotiation is such a powerful ploy to employ in a negotiation.

Head Nodding Implication:

When you’re engaged in a negotiation, nodding your head as you make a pronouncement lends credence to what you’re conveying. The subliminal message that’s conveyed is, I really believe what I’m saying is true, and I’m committed to my statements. Your challenge is to dissect when the real truth is reality, versus the other negotiator attempting to convince you that what he’s saying is reality.

Right Way To Use Head Nodding:

The best way to promote this gesture is to smile and maintain eye contact with the other negotiator as you’re speaking. To enhance the effect, pause for 1 second as your speaking to denote something important is about to be said. Then, as you make that pronouncement, nod your head to emphasize the point. The combination of the head gesture, smiling and maintaining eye contact as you deliver your statement will have a hypnotic effect on the person with whom you’re speaking.

It’s also worth noting that people who are aligned with what you’re saying when you display a head nod will tend to nod back at you. Their gesture not only serves as confirmation that they agree with you, at that moment, they’re also allowing you to lead them. Thus, it behooves you to observe to what degree your negotiation companion nods in return to your head nodding.

Wrong Way To Use Head Nodding:

Nodding excessively will dilute the emphasis that such a gesture has during a negotiation. Therefore, don’t nod too frequently. Doing so could cause the other negotiator to nod off, which means he’ll pay no attention to your nodding gestures. Another thing to consider is what words you choose to emphasize when making this gesture. If the action is synchronized with the wrong word(s), you could end up shifting the perception of what’s important. In that case, you’d have your negotiation counterpart psychologically wondering exactly what you’re attempting to convey and where you’re headed.

A lot of information is conveyed through the gesture of head nodding. Be mindful that good negotiators may attempt to use this gesture as a tactic to assess to what degree, and when, you might follow their lead. Thus, you must be alert to the way you respond to such action; your reaction or lack of will emit a signal that can be used as a gauge by the other negotiator.

If you want to enhance your believability during a negotiation, nod when making statements that you want others to believe in. That simple gesture, accompanied by strong eye contact and a smile while delivering your message, will enhance your negotiation efforts… and everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

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"Negotiate More Effectively By Knowing How To Act Better" – Negotiation Tip of the Week

Do you plan how you’ll #act when you #negotiate? What #role do you decide you’ll play? Knowing the right role to display will allow you to negotiate better. Although you can’t predict every circumstance that you’ll encounter in a negotiation, the better prepared you are, the better your act will be.

Your act:

Everyone plays a role during a negotiation. And, your role should align with how you wish the other negotiator to perceive you; that’s your act. You should not view it as bad or inauthentic; it’s an act. If it’s misaligned, you run the risk of weakening your position. As an example, you shouldn’t become a bully if you’ve been playing the role of someone that’s helpful. That would be a misalignment.

Consider the following and keep in mind that you can morph from one act to another. Just be sure there’s an easily perceived reason for doing so.

  • Nonchalant

You can adopt this act to project a ‘no-care’ attitude (i.e. if it happens, fine – if it doesn’t, fine). You might employ this demeanor when you wish to confuse the other negotiator about your real interest in what he’s offering. Make sure not to become unmasked by being too deep into the role. Because a fleeting offer may disappear before you can shift acts.

  • Defiant

“I won’t accept that offer under any circumstances!” Be cautious when adopting this act. It can leave you in a position that’s difficult to retreat from. While this can be a good tactic, if it’s overused and you must concede, you’ll be weaker throughout the rest of the negotiation.

To combat the perception of being in a weaker position, consider feigning momentary hopelessness. It’ll lend credence to your act. But you must attempt to regain your defiant act, be it from a less entrenched position, to regain your position. You’ll only be able to use the hopelessness ploy once, twice if you’re overly convincing. So, be mindful of how and when you employ it. If you do so too early in the negotiation, you’ll lessen its effect later. If you do it too late, you’ll bring additional scrutiny upon your act.

  • Helpful

Most people like helping people. It’s a characteristic that’s pleasing. It’s also a characteristic that some people despise. Thus, you must know when to be a helpful actor and when to drop the act.

Dominant negotiators, the bullying type, tend not to want help. They already know what’s good for the negotiation. From their perspective, your insights will only hinder the process.

Invoke the helpful act with collaborative negotiator types. They seek input to promote win-win negotiation outcomes. To better effect this act, consider when you’ll lead and when you’ll follow. To follow, ask the other negotiator for her opinion. Then, build on it. To lead, present a non-threatening offer and ask your collaborator what she thinks of it. Build on what she says.

  • Dominant

Most people don’t like to be dominated; it places too many restrictions on them. Nevertheless, acting dominantly versus someone that’s savvy and in control can have its benefits. The difference lies in whether you’re perceived as being overbearing, strong-willed, or just knowledgeable. To effect this act, attune yourself to the other negotiator’s perception. There can be hidden value in this role. Knowing how and when to uncover that value makes it more valuable.

The stage you’re in, in the negotiation, should direct how you act. Like a good director, if you time your actions appropriately, your actions will be more believable. That will lead to more winning negotiation outcomes… and everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!