Diplomacy in Intercultural Business Negotiations
Posted April 19, 2016 in Articles
If your experience in business negotiations is limited to striking deals within the confines of your own country’s borders, you may be in for a bit of culture shock when you approach your first cross-border negotiation. As we have previously discussed, cultural differences can play a role in everything from how people interpret eye contact to what their long-term goals are when they come to the table. While it can be easy to dismiss these as trivial concerns or issues that can be easily overcome, the truth is that even minor missteps can set the wrong tone and derail negotiations that could – and should – have gone in a better direction.
In this article, we will assume you have gotten past the language barrier and other basic issues that can complicate intercultural transactions. Let’s focus on four more-nuanced factors that can all play important roles in determining the outcome of a negotiation.
First impressions matter, and making the wrong impression can set the tone for the rest of what could be a very short-term relationship. While using someone’s first name can help you avoid appearing weak in certain cultures, in others, it can be taken as a sign of disrespect. Using the shortened version of someone’s name (such as “Dave” for David or “Kate” for Katherine) can be even worse.
The time difference from Paris to Beijing is six hours. From New York to Sydney, it’s fourteen. When it is a busy Friday afternoon in France, it is the wee hours of Saturday morning in Japan.
Time differences can be a significant hurdle in cross-border negotiations, particularly when there are tight deadlines that need to be met in order to stay on schedule. Working with your counterparty to arrange meetings that accommodate both sides as much as possible can go a long way toward demonstrating awareness and building mutual respect.
3. Cultural Awareness
Speaking of scheduling, make sure you know when it is a holiday in your counterparty’s country or culture. Even if it isn’t taken as a sign of disrespect, attempting to schedule a meeting or set a deadline when someone needs to be out of the office won’t set the tone you’re trying to set in terms of cultural awareness. Also, be careful to avoid cues and references that may not resonate outside of your country, and take the time to learn the cues and references that you might misinterpret or misunderstand as an outsider to your counterparty’s culture.
4. Strategic Approach (Negotiating Attitude)
Finally, in some cultures, it is expected that all parties to a transaction will work around the clock in order to meet deadlines that everyone knew were tight to begin with. In others, negotiating a business deal can be more of a courtship, with the emphasis placed on building a sustainable relationship instead of nailing down the details at a frenetic pace. If you approach a deal with the wrong attitude or the wrong expectations, you could see it fall apart before it ever truly begins to come together.
Mithras Investments | Experienced M&A Consultants and Intercultural Negotiators
None of this is to suggest that you must invariably defer to your counterparty’s way of doing business. Rather, your focus in preparing for intercultural negotiations should be on making sure that you take a respectful and measured approach that allows you consistently make strides toward a favorable outcome. At Mithras Investments, we provide consulting and negotiation services for achieving effective cross-border transactions worldwide. To learn more about how we can help, call (305) 517-7911 or send us an email today.