In an integrated and an interdependent world cross border transactions have increased significantly. These encompass relationships between buyers and sellers, joint ventures between partners from different countries, and/or mergers and acquisitions. Cross border transactions bring into fore the importance of national culture as cultural influences shape the manner in which the parties conduct business. In particular, culture influences how we negotiate. Negotiation is an essential component of business activity. We cannot not negotiate although we have the choice of negotiating effectively or ineffectively.
National cultural differences have a critical impact on what it means to negotiate and/or how the negotiation is to be carried out. Cultures differ in terms of their time sensitivity, their orientation to contracts, their communication style, their decision-making processes, and/or their orientation towards relationship or task. The differences are often an impediment to successful negotiations, but they also create emotional and behavioral challenges for the negotiators. What skills should global negotiators possess in managing the cultural challenge they are confronted with? It is this issue which is the focus of this blog.
Global negotiators need to have patience. Negotiations will often take longer than expected and this needs to be taken into account. Delay may not necessarily represent an intent on part of the other party to delay the process although it could certainly happen. They also need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity. Cultural barriers often create a fog, and it is important to navigate this fog in a way that does not negatively impact the negotiation process. It is important to be deliberate and non- judgmental while in the negotiation process. Openness is another important trait from which a global negotiator can benefit. It conveys respect while also an important source of learning. Relational orientation is vital as in many cultures without a relationship there is no deal. Flexibility is helpful too. In some context it may be the key to success. The ability to manage emotions is vital. From time-to-time frustration or anger may arise but expressing emotions may not be the best way to deal with the situation at hand. One should also seek to learn from failure. There will be some negotiations that will not go your way. But they may still provide valuable lessons as to what went wrong and why. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I do think that as a global negotiator you will be well positioned if you possess and/or develop these skills.