Avoiding Intercultural Barriers during Negotiation

In this age of globalization, it is common for companies in different countries to work with each other. However, it is not always simple to figure out the work ethic or culture of the other company. If you are doing business with another country, it is likely you will be in a position to negotiate with them. Even if both you and the representatives from the other country speak the same language, negotiation may be a difficult process. Intercultural barriers during negotiations can negatively impact a business deal. In order to avoid this, we have provided a few tips below to keep in mind when you prepare for your next intercultural negotiation.

Tip #1: Do your Research

The first step in overcoming intercultural barriers is getting to know who you will be dealing with. Getting to know as much as you can about your counterpart is a great idea. Do some research and find out if he/she has any international negotiating experience. If they do, then it would be safe to assume that you do not need to engage in cultural stereotyping. If you are not able to find much information about him/her, then do some general research on the culture and do your best to avoid stereotyping. You may also ask a negotiating partner or another contact within the business to provide you with more information on your counterpart.

Tip #2: Enlist an Adviser

If you continue to have trouble finding information on your counterpart or you don’t believe the information you have is adequate, then enlisting an adviser from the same culture as your counterpart is a great idea. You may also want to enlist an adviser if the person you are negotiating with has no international experience. Your adviser can serve as your “second” in negotiations and and “cultural guide.” However, you should not defer to your adviser too much during the negotiations. If you need to speak to your adviser during the negotiations, it is recommended you take a break and step away from the table. Also, be sure to have an open relation with your adviser. If the adviser interjects during the negotiation, be sure to consult with him about your next steps and learn from your mistakes.

Tip #3: Pay Attention to Negotiation Dynamics

Although everyone at the negotiating table may speak the same language, it does not necessarily mean you will understand everything they say. Therefore, it is important for you to listen carefully to every word. If you are not sure about what they just said, repeat what you think they said. If you ask them a question and their response is not clear, rephrase the question and try again. Also, be sure to mind your manners and go with your intuition when you get mixed signals.


International negotiations

Source referenced: Harvard Law Program on Negotiation


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Rausch Mediation & Arbitration Services
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