Unique challenges arise with business negotiators from different cultures, even with the best of intentions and a common language. When dealing with international business negotiations, it is important to make an effort to stay away from stereotyping and intercultural barriers. An article by the “Program on Negotiation” staff from Harvard Law School discusses three tips to help you avoid such barriers and be successful in international business negotiations.
The first thing you can do to prepare for an international negotiation, is to find out who exactly will be your negotiation partner and do some research to learn about their past and experience. Never underestimate the information you can find online through a simple Google or LinkedIn search. You can also try to solicit information about your counterpart by going through a contact that has ties to their firm to do some research for you. If you discover that your negotiating partner is very experienced in international negotiations, you can be pretty sure that trying to use cultural stereotyping to your advantage will cause more complications than positive outcomes.
You might want to consider consulting with someone from your international negotiation partner’s culture. It could be a good idea to plan out signals before the negotiation, indicating when you should request a break because you’re in need of advice during the negotiation. This way, you have a sort of cultural guide that can help you to better understand the situation, direct you, and intervene if they feel like things have gotten out of hand because of a bad misinterpretation.
In an unfamiliar situation such as an international negotiation, it is imperative that you are very observant and take note of how the negotiation unfolds. Don’t dismiss questions that you believe could’ve been misunderstood, try to reword them and ask again. In the same manner, if you are unclear on what the other side has said, reiterate the information for clarification. It’s expected that people coming from different cultures are going to interpret things differently, but it can also be said that nowadays in our globalized world we tend to have more in common with each other than we think.
The time to utilize legal or technical expertise in order to continue with a negotiation successfully is pretty clear for most business professionals, it should be just the same for negotiators that are in need of clarity and advise related to cultural differences.