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Cultural Differences in Negotiations and Conflicts

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  • 0:05 Culture Influences…
  • 0:49 Cultural Differences
  • 3:21 How Culture Applies to…
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn
Different cultures have different views of the negotiation process. Sometimes these views cause conflict, and it is important to understand these different views when entering into a negotiation.

Culture Influences Negotiations

Different people negotiate different ways. An older gentleman might negotiate one way, while a single mother of three might negotiate another way. These differences are not only present here in the U.S., but also when we negotiate with individuals from other countries. Culture influences how individuals negotiate and how they view and interpret the negotiation process.

If we understand that negotiations are conversations aimed at reaching an agreement, and if we can also understand that different cultures reach agreements in different ways, then we have the basis of international negotiations, that is to say how one culture may look at the negotiation process totally different than another. These differences can create conflict in the process.

Cultural Differences

There are several main areas where cultural differences impact negotiating. The following are all differences that may arise during the negotiation process due to cultural differences:

  • Desire for a long-term relationship or just a one-time deal
  • Preference to win negotiating or preference for a win-win negotiation
  • Informal or formal attitude
  • Direct or indirect communication style
  • Show emotion or hide emotions
  • Decisions made by the group or by the leader

Let's look at each of these points to get a better idea of how they could affect negotiations.

First, we can discuss whether the negotiating party is looking for just a one-shot type of business or a long-term relationship. While some markets might be looking for just a contract (Spain, for example), members of other countries might be looking for a long-term relationship (India, for example).

Next, we have the win-win thought process of negotiations. Some cultures look at negotiating as a win-win type of process (as the Japanese do), but countries like Spain typically do not view the negotiation that way. They prefer to win the negotiation and are not as concerned with the win-win proposition.

Personal style also plays a cultural part in negotiations. Specifically, is a person more formal (professional, detailed, structured and businesslike) or informal (more personable, wanting to connect with the other party) when it comes to negotiating? As it relates to negotiating, the Germans are more formal, where individuals from Mexico are more informal. This formality helps guide how these two different cultures negotiate and, in turn, how you should negotiate with them.

Tied somewhat to the aspects of formal or informal culture is the aspect of whether individuals in the culture communicate directly or indirectly. An example of this is in negotiations, 'yes' does not mean 'yes' with the Japanese. 'Yes' means 'I understand' and is a very indirect means of communicating. On the other hand, the Israelis believe in very direct communication, which can sometimes feel off-putting to those that do not understand this cultural difference.

There are many other aspects that can affect negotiations, such as if individuals in the culture typically hide how they are feeling, like the Japanese, or do they show their feelings right away, like much of the Latin culture? There is always the concept of how group decision making is handled. Do they make a decision as a group, or does one person in the group make the decision? Many Asian cultures stress team consensus before a decision can be made, and, typically, in the U.S., we are looking for the group leader to make the decision.

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