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Cross-cultural awareness in international negotiations

In his book English for International Negotiations: a cross-cultural case study approach, Drew Rodgers states that

“The art of negotiating involves finding a balance between achieving the best possible result, while at the same time establishing a mutually beneficial working relationship with your counterparts.” (Rodgers, 1998, p. 1)

Several suggestions were given to establish an atmosphere of mutual understanding between the negotiation parties, which are:

  1. Establishing interests and not positions.
  2. Do not underestimate the importance of socializing and protocol.
  3. Take the other side’s position seriously.
  4. Depersonalize and focus on stance.
  5. Listen and observe actively.
  6. Periodically summaries agreement as you are going along.
  7. Establish a feeling of fairness by using objective criteria.
  8. Document your position and present it logically.
  9. Establish a positive mindset before entering the negotiations
  10. Emphasize the positive.
  11. Know your limits.
  12. Be prepared.
  13. Be aware of tactics and tricks.

These suggestions could prepare a negotiator a better state to start the discussion with their counterpart. Drew Rodgers also emphasized the importance of the socio-dynamic criteria in a social setting such the cultural awareness in international negotiations.

For example, in Arabic culture, Arabs want to establish a friendship before the negotiations, while Americans are goal-oriented. Another example is that the oriental view of a contract is an outline of the situation and could be altered when a new situation arises. Furthermore, the western values a contract a legal binding between parties, while Asian and Latin Americans consider it an establishment of relationship.

In my experience, the key element in a successful negotiation is the establishment of the best possible long term interest for the contractual parties. A well-prepared negotiator should be able to bring out the benefit of a long term relationship with the other party and be able to deliver his/her promises of long term benefits when he/she is asking for the short-term scarifies of the other party. A negotiator should also be aware of this dynamic when he/she is the party who will take the short-term scarifies.

Nowadays, aggressive negotiators are seldom found in negotiation rooms because power differences between contractual parties will establish only after the signing of the contract where legal binding begins.

In reality, the best way to enforce a contract is to bind the long term interest of all contractual parties in the business relationship. Otherwise, solicitors will be the only winner in the collaboration.

References:

Rodgers, D. (2001). English for international negotiations: a cross-cultural case study approach. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.