Negotiation technology put to the test by cultural differences
How do you negotiate with a Chinese person, or an Indian person? Is there a danger of creating an awkward situation or committing an awful blunder through ignorance of the cultures of our interlocutors? To what point should one take into consideration the cultural characteristics of the other party in a negotiation?
Theories in cognitive psychology have always focused on the powerful role of representation systems and cultural reference points in determining attitudes and behaviours, which entail ways of relating with each other. Although these influences do exist, one must be careful to avoid using stereotypes and simplistic shortcuts in the form of behavioural patterns. First and foremost, negotiation skills cannot be boiled down to behavioural skills alone. If it were just a question of adapting to the culture of the other party to negotiate properly, there would be no need to resort to so many governing bodies to form agreements in international relations. The reason why the conclusion of such negotiated agreements is so complex and difficult is not so much down to the evident cultural differences as to the scale of the contradictory interests which they are attempting to overcome. That's why negotiation skills have a much wider scope than 'culturally correct behavioural skills'; this involves acquiring a real technological understanding of a set of tools, techniques and methods which give professional negotiators distinctive skills, regardless of their ethnic, national or religious background.
This is a key technology, which helps international negotiators overcome behavioural divisions and cultural variations. For the Croatian or Chinese person, whose interest is in coming to a negotiated agreement with an interlocutor, they must all be able to draw up a negotiation road map, which will guide them to the desired agreement. They must know how to identify existing disagreements, take (or not take) the initiative in the negotiation, prepare the potential elasticity of the positions to be defended, consider concessions to be made, evaluate the balance of power and dependence, organise the negotiation, etc. These are just some of the key factors, which have been identified from decades of experience in international relations and which can be applied to any negotiation situation (institutional or entrepreneurial).
The negotiators of the United Nations often mention that, although they are the worthy representatives of their nations, their mandates as negotiators lead them to form agreements, above all else, which, in and of itself, requires a form of cultural transgression…
In conclusion, we can assert that in the area of negotiation, cultural differences have only a marginal effect on the behaviour of those involved. This has been tried and tested by the specialists involved in teaching these skills, who present the same approach on every continent.
Regardless of their background, professional negotiators have powerful and reliable tools which they must understand in order to fulfil the requirements of their given mandate…
More than ever, people with different backgrounds and cultures are being required to form agreements due to the globalisation of trade. In turn, the well-informed use of negotiation technology has never been more essential.