- What are the main cross-cultural differences and similarities between negotiators from different cultures?
- In which ways these cross-cultural differences can affect a negotiation?
- How to overcome the cross-cultural differences and avoid misunderstandings that can prevent a deal to be closed successfully?
Meaning of Culture
According to the famous British writer Raymond Williams (1983), culture is one of the most complicated words in the English language to be explained, due to its variety of meanings.
Frequently, when somebody ask about the meaning of culture, most people come up with the following responses about what defines culture: a way of life, traditions, a set of rules, art, beliefs, set of values, language, food, religion, etc. In fact, all the answers above cited are right, because culture includes all of them, and even the definition of culture is really culturally different, because is based on each person's own experience and according to Herskovits (1955), culture may include geography as well as material objects and artifacts.
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As Hall (1976) notes, culture is a man's medium, and every single aspect of human life is altered by culture and therefore, it can be valuable to explore how others have defined this medium and related terms. People who have visited or worked in another country will agree that cultural differences exist. The foreigner usually paints to such things as: food, dressing, tipping, relation between family members and language as examples of how culture differs. But culture is much more complex to go beyond such relevant and at the same time superficial differences. When the foreigner gets some skills in another language, some “hidden” differences become more noticeable, for example how and when “natives” use humor, how rules of formality are used according different contexts. Other interesting aspects is the different meaning and uses of silence, gender, position that are not expressed in the language but in the reality. According to Edward T. Hall (1959), culture controls people's behaviour in such deep ways, many of which are outside of awareness and therefore beyond conscious control of individual.
Clifford Geertz (1973) perceives culture more importantly to be the means by which people perpetuate, communicate and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life. The difficulty of finding terms in which to explore cultural differences does not seem to stop people from talking and writing about culture as if it were “a thing”. On international negotiations, many times the deals are not done simply because one of the parts did not share the same cultural background, or the parts involved were “culturally too different”. The point is that the perception of differences between cultures is so important and so definitive for negotiations, that an explanations of cultural misunderstanding is most of the times accepted even when most of the people involved in the negotiations would have a difficult time trying to explain what that might really means (cultural differences) except in terms of superficial examples. According to Hall (1976), culture is not a thing, which can be experienced directly through the senses, and is not directly tangible or visible. There are ideas constructed inside a society. Culture does not exist in a simple and easily form for a determined number of people in a bounded area, and a society, is not a uniform group of individuals with equal mental characteristics or personalities.
So, what is the real meaning of culture? According to anthropologists Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952 p.357), the definition is:
“Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behaviour acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiment in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e., historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values; cultures systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other, as conditioning elements of future action.”
Hofstede (2004) defined culture as a collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another. Certainly the key expression in this definition is “collective programming”. It describes a process in which all members of one society have been subjected immediately after birth, through the lessons of parents, family and teachers. Parents and teachers try to give children the best advice they can. It fits them out for a successful interaction in their own culture and society, where good and bad, right and wrong, normal and abnormal are defined. Philip Harris and Robert Moran (1991) observe that culture gives people a sense of who they are, of belonging, of how they should behave and what they should be doing. Therefore, culture dictates what groups of people pay attention to. It guides how the world is conceived, how the self is experienced and how life itself is organized. Members of an ethnic group share patterns that enable them to see the same things in the same way and this particular aspect make possible that people holds together. Lucklessly, children from different societies are been given a different set of instructions, although equally valid on their own medium. As people grow up, these taught-and-learned experiences become our core beliefs, which we defined almost impossible to abandon. Therefore, culture is relative. That means that people in different cultures perceive the world differently and have different ways of doing things, and there is no standards for considering one group as intrinsically superior or inferior to any other, in other words, each culture perceive the world and react differently.
Always on Time
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Keesing (1974) suggests that our cultures provides us with internal models of reality and implicit theories of the game being played in our societies, whereas Olsen (1978) points out that as people communicate the meanings of their actions to each other and work out shared interpretations of activities and definitions of situations, they develop a common culture that is shared by the participants, providing them with interpretations of social life, role expectations, social norms and common definitions of situations.
Variations of culture
There are six basic dimensions to describe the cultural orientations of societies, according to Kluckhohn (1961): peoples' qualities as individuals, their relationship to nature and the world, their relationship to other people, their primary type of activity, and their orientation in space and time. These six dimensions answer the questions: Who am I? How do I see the world? How do I relate to other people? What do I do? How do I use space and time? Each orientation reflects a value and each value has behavioural and attitudinal implications.
According to Hall (1976), culture is often compared to an iceberg because much of it lies beneath the surface, out of our immediate awareness and an extended variety of cultures can be seen in the present situation and there are many reasons for that, such as major impact of forces of nature and force of humans. Forces of nature can be explained by the adaptation of a society to new natural environments which leads them to seek new cultural solutions.
What is the nature of the individual: good or evil? According to Haru Yamada (1997), Americans traditionally see people as a mixture of good and evil, capable of choosing one over than other. They believe in the possibility of improvement through change. Some other cultures see people basically evil, while other see people as basically good. Societies that consider people as good tend to trust them a great deal, whereas societies that consider people evil tend to suspect or mistrust them. In high-trust societies, for example, people leave doors unlocked and do not fear being robbed or assaulted. In low-trust societies, people bolt their doors.
Generally speaking, what is strong in another culture will also be present in some form in your own culture. We speak of guilty cultures and shame cultures, for example: those which try to make us feel guilty for breaking rules, and those which demand public apologies and subject the miscreant to the hostiles stares of their group.
Hall (1976) contends that culture differ on a continuum that ranges from low to high context. Informations and rules are explicit in low-context cultures that use linear logic and a direct style of communication. In contrast, information and rules are implicit in high-context cultures that draw upon intuition and utilize and indirect style of communication. Respect is most effectively developed once we realise that most cultural differences are in ourselves, even if we are not yet recognised them. For example, Haru Yamada (1997) notes that people often think Japanese are mysterious, even unreliable. Others never know what they are feeling or thinking and they always say “yes”, even when they are negative about something. But everyone has situations in which the same happens. People might have to lie to encourage others to keep going in a difficult situation where the problem is lack of confidence.
Another, perhaps more interesting problem, pointed by Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952), is that of mutual empathy which happens when one person attempts to shift to another culture's perspective when at the same time the other person is trying to do the same thing and we pass each other invisibly like ships in the night. But foreign cultures have an integrity which only some of its members will abandon because people who abandon their culture become weakened and corrupt. We need foreigners to be themselves if partnerships are to work. It is this very difference which makes relationships valuable. This is why we need to reconcile differences, be ourselves but yet see and understand how the other's perspectives can help your own.
Types of culture
The cultural orientation framework
With the cultural orientation framework, Walker, Walker and Schimitz (2003) present another point of view on the impact of cross-cultural issues. It is based on cross-cultural comparative research studies and therefore provides a quantitative and qualitative overview on cultural dimensions. Walker et al (2003) display ten different dimensions for distinguish national cultures: environment, time, action, space, power, individualism, competitiveness, structure, thinking and communication. By listening these dimensions, they applied three universal criteria (Walker et al., 2003, p. 56):
- “each dimension needs to recognize an important aspect of life”;
- each dimension needs to be linked to “a basic orientation as the shared rationale for behaviour”; and
- “each dimension has practical value to [...] anyone else who needs to reconcile, integrate, or transcend cultural differences”.
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Within the cultural orientation framework the cultural dimension of the communication describes cultural differences in “how individual express themselves” (Walker et al., 2003, p. 56). It recognizes the differences in expressing and exchanging information. Walker et al (2003) map major distinctions on four:
- Direct vs. Indirect
- Expressive vs. Instrumental
- Formal vs. Informal
- Low-context vs. High-context
Direct vs. Indirect Cultures
The cultural orientation framework indicates a distinction between Direct and Indirect cultures. Direct cultures value direct communication and an open atmosphere handling conflicts and problems. Conflicts, tension and feedback are seen as constructive and important; straightforwardness is interpreted as honesty and trustworthiness. Open discussions, debates and negotiations are emphasized; employees feel relatively free to communicate their thoughts and perspectives (Walker et al., 2003). According to Walker et al (2003), a direct approach to conflict and feedback can be one-way or two-way oriented. In one-way cultures, orders down the system dominate the information flow. In two-ways culture, “information flows both, up and down the system” (Walker et al., 2003, p. 70). On the other hand, indirect cultures emphasize conflict avoidance and saving face. Indirect societies are carefully in bringing tension into a relationship or contentious topic into a conversation. Open discussions, debates, or negotiations are avoided (Walker et al., 2003).
Expressive vs. Instrumental Cultures
A further distinction the Cultural Orientation framework provides is between Expressive and Instrumental cultures. Expressive cultures display positive and negative emotions freely through body language; emotional alignments are necessary for successful communication. Expressive cultures emphasize “establishment and maintenance of emotional connectedness” (Walker et al, 2003, p.70) over details, facts and accuracy. Hiding emotions is interpreted as inapproachability or emotional coldness (Walker et al, 2003). On the other hand, in instrumental cultures, communication is problem-centred, pragmatic and task-oriented. Cognitive and rational alignment is preferred over emotional alignment; objectiveness, accurateness and details are valued. According to Walker et al (2003, p.71), “what is said is placed above how something is said”. In contrast, in instrumental societies, emotions are hidden as much as possible (Walker et al., 2003).
Formal vs. Informal cultures
Cultures can also be categorized by a formal or informal approach to communication. Formal cultures value etiquette, protocol and ritualistic exchange. Characteristics of such cultures are hierarchy consciousness, dress, greetings, forms of scheduling and conduction meetings, eating and drinking, or gift exchange; communication in business tends to be more indirect. On the other hand, Informal cultures value the absence of any strict rules in communication; information is exchanged freely without boundaries (Walker et al., 2003).
Low-context vs. High-context cultures
Low-context cultures, such as Americans, German, Swiss and Scandinavian societies, place less emphasis on the context of a communication, such as implied meaning or nonverbal messages. Low-context communication is explicit: direct, clear, linear, detailed and verbal (Hall, 1976; Reynolds and Valentine, 2004; Schmidt, 2001). Based on Hall's findings, Reynolds and Valentine (2004) categorized nine aspects of low-context cultures: verbal communication is emphasized over nonverbal communication; job tasks are separated from relationships and public life is separated from private life; individual initiative, decision-making and achievement are emphasized. Furthermore, they describe employment relationships in low-context culture as mechanistic. Employees view themselves as a marketable identity and make decisions due to improvement of personal circumstances. In addition, low-context societies tend to rely more on facts, statistics and other details as supporting evidence, and they are highly sensitive to standardized data and results. They use a direct style in writing and speaking, prefer linear reasoning and adhere to the letter of the law. They rarely do business on just a handshake. A written document that is agreed upon to is indispensable (Hall, 1976; Reynolds & Valentine, 2004). To conclude, words do not need to be interpreted through the understanding of the culture; communication is straightforward.
In contrast, high-context cultures, such as Arabic, Japanese and Mediterranean societies, emphasize the context in which communication takes place; they are sensitive to implicit information. Communication is defined as implicit: coded, circular and indirect (Hall, 1976; Reynolds & Valentine (2004) also examine nine aspects of the social framework. In contrast to its counterpart, high-context cultures are categorized as relying on implicit communication, discrepancies between actual words and intended meaning will be recognized; relationships have a greater importance; and collective initiative and decision-making is emphasized. Compared to the mechanistic view of low-context cultures, high-context cultures approach employment relationships more humanistic, and employees are seen as “family” members that work for the good of the group and remain loyal to the company for many years. Furthermore, people from high-context societies rely on intuition or trust rather than facts and statistics; prefer indirect style in writing and speaking; and favour circular or indirect reasoning. They adhere to the spirit of the law and rely less on written contracts (Hall, 1979; Reynolds & Valentine, 2004). Hall (1959) categorizes high-context cultures as having close personal relationships and extensive information networks and as avoiding offenses. To conclude, communication is implicit; the message comes not only through words but through body language, surroundings and the relationship between people involved; attention is paid to the circumstances of the communication process (Nolan, 1999; Schmidt, 2001).
How different are we?
Every culture has its own way of thinking and behaving, but how different can we be? Is it possible to have a certain culture so different from another's that turns the cross-cultural barriers impossible to overcome? It is all about how much we know about the other's culture and how interested we are in accept the differences and try to adapt ourselves to the new pattern of behaviour.
According to Hampden-Turner (1997), internationalization will lead to a decrease of the differences between nations worldwide. Some big companies are examples of that, such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's where managers and employees seems to act in a similar way even is countries with far different cultures. However, James Watson (1997) in his study of McDonald's, demonstrated that even though the taste of the hamburger and the division of the labor to produce them, do seem to be universal, many differences quickly appear when consumers from different cultures enter a McDonald's restaurant
There are some countries where the rules can never disrespect even if it can cause damage or loss to you. For example, if you are driving your car late in the night with no other cars in sight and the traffic light turns to red. What to do? Wait some minutes until it gets green even though there is no other car on the streets and it is late in the night? According to Wallace Schimidt (2007), it obviously depends on the environment you live on. For Germans, it is clear that you must wait for the traffic light to turns green and there is no excuse to break the rule. Their biggest fear is that exceptions can make the whole system becomes weaker. However, for third-world countries, such as Brazil, there is a common sense that allow people to ignore the red light at night in order to avoid thieves who can approach the car late in the night.
According to Trompenaars (1993), another important point in breaking rule is the difference between universal and particular societies. In universalist countries, every person is a citizen and deserves the same treatment according to agreement established by the culture they live on. In the other hand, we find the particularist group, where the person is not seen as a citizen, but as a friend or a relative who has some level of importance for me, and therefore, deserves a different treatment. People from both groups see each other with distrust. Universalists often say that particularists cannot be trusted because they always tend to help their friends or relatives, breaking the law and weakening the system, while particularists say that people who are not able to help a friend or a relative in a difficult situation don't deserve their trust.
Language is a tool “with which we make sense of the world and share that sense with others” (Beebe & Materson, 1982, p. 27). Doing business, of course, means express needs and wishes for another part and get their needs to make a balance and find an agreement. But understanding how do people express themselves is such an important issue, especially when opposite styles cross each other.
According to Wallace Schimidt et al (2007), language involves accents, dialects, pronunciation, rules, and other communication behaviours such as style or rate of speaking. Giles (1973) notes that a dialect is the unique pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary we use when speaking. Our dialect or ethnolinguistic variation identifies us with a certain country or region.
The dynamic of Multilanguage speakers frequently switching back and forth between languages is called code-switching, and some find this behaviour disconcerting and difficult to follow, according to Auer (1998). There are, however, a number of reasons why code-switching occurs. First, “the decision to use one language over another is often related to the setting in which the interaction occurs - a social, public and formal setting versus a personal, private, and informal one” Lustig & Koester (2003, p.232). Second, the topic of conversation is an important factor affecting code-switching. A technical topic, for instance, requiring a specialized vocabulary may require the speaker to switch to his or her stronger language in search of a correct term. Finally, a person's conversational partner is another important factor in code-switching. A person often switches back and forth when learning a new language but frequently uses profanity only in his or her native language.
According to Watzlawick, Beeavin, & Jackson, (1967), we interpret the symbolic behaviours of others and assign significance to some of those behaviours in order to try to create a meaningful account of their actions. However, many intercultural misunderstandings are due to behaviours of a person from one culture being incorrectly perceived, interpreted, and reacted to by a person from another culture. Nieremberg and Valero (1974) suggest that communication exists on at least three levels of meaning: (1) What the speaker says; (2) What the speaker thinks is said; and (3) What the listener thinks the speaker said. The language system we learn from our culture has a profound influence on how we interpret another's behaviour and the world.
Begley (2002) emphasizes that effective global communicators must be aware of the dynamic relationships between thinking, language, culture and behaviour and John Carroll (1956, p. 27) humorously notes that “we have all been tricked by the structure of language into a certain way of perceiving reality”.
We become more consciously aware of our communication behaviour and speech codes when we encounter new or novel situations such as communicating with people from other cultures. Cosmopolitan communicators are able to flexibly respond to these new international business situations and competently bridge communication differences (Turner, 1988).
According to Trompenaars (2004), there are two main groups, which are the affective, such as south Europeans and Latin and the neutral, such as Japanese and north Europeans. The main issue is not to wrongly interpretate a reaction from a different culture. For example, businessmen coming from neutral cultures tend to show no reaction or emotion to an offer, even if he gets very interested in it, while an Italian businessman might show himself very excited, but turn down your offer five minutes later. The use of humour is also avoided by neutral cultures where they are not meant to laugh in a professional meeting between strangers. In the other hand, Brazilians quite often use jokes or anecdotes to keep the audience awake and aware in a presentation. The oral communication also shows clearly the difference between both neutral and affective cultures. It is a sign of respect to wait someone to stop talking before you start in neutral cultures. However, in affective cultures, people always interrupt each other to demonstrate that they are paying attention to what has been said and they are interested in the subject.
The language system is very important when negotiating or dealing with others, but at the same level of importance, we have the many nonverbal cues that accompany spoken messages. Furthermore, some would say that these cues are even more significant than verbal messages themselves. Dean C. Barnlund's (1968, p. 535) review of the literature on nonverbal communication led him to conclude that “many, and sometimes most, of the critical meanings generated in human encounters are elicited by touch, glance, vocal nuance, gesture, or facial expression with or without the aid of words.”
According to Birdwhistell's (1955), during face-to-face communication only 35 percent of the meaning comes from words and the rest comes from nonverbal messages. Albert Mehrabian(1968) raises this statistical estimate and contends that 93 percent of the emotional impact of a message comes from a nonverbal source and only 7 percent is verbal.
Knapp (1980) notes that our attitudes can be expressed nonverbally with our eyes, hands, physical movement, voice, and even silence. These nonverbal behaviours, however, take on meaning only when viewed within the total context. Moreover, Mehrabian (1971) importantly says that “when any nonverbal behaviour contradicts speech, it is more likely to determine the total impact of the message.”
Nonverbal communication serves as principal means of self-presentation. Others come to know us by the nonverbal messages we send. Whether in casual conversations or business settings, our nonverbal behaviours reveal who we are (Feldman, 1991).
According to Trompenaars (1993), in societies, eye contact is crucial to confirm interest, whereas in some places like Suriname a kid might be slapped in the face if being caught making eye contact, because respectful kids do not make eye contact.
Determining the power distance and social status
The power dimensions focuses on the appropriateness or importance of satus difference and social hierarchies. Wallace schimidt et al (2007) notes that people from high power distance cultures accept a particular social order or hierarchy and believe that recognized authorities should not be challenged or questioned and that those with preferred social status have a right to use power for whatever purposes or in whatever ways deem desirable. In the other hand, people in low power distance cultures believe in the importance of social equality - reducing hierarchical structures, minimizing social or class inequities, questioning or challenging authority figures, and using power only for legitimate purposes. It should be noted that high power distance cultures tend to be collectivist, whereas low power distance cultures tend to be individualistic.
According to Trompenaars (1993), all societies give certain of their members higher status than others, signalling that unusual attention should be focused upon such persons and their activities. While some societies accord status to people on the basis of their achievements, others ascribe it to them by virtue of age, class gender, education, and so on. The first status is called achieved status and the second ascribed status. While achieved status refers to doing, ascribed status refers to being.
Managing time dimension
Hofstede (2001) refers time dimension to a person's point of reference about life and work. Long-term orientation cultures admire persistence, humility, and deferred gratification of needs. They believe good and evil depends on the circumstances and opposites complement each other. Short-term orientation cultures have a deep appreciation for tradition, personal steadfastness, maintaining the face of self and others, giving and receiving gifts and favors, and an expectation for quick results. They believe in absolute guidelines about good and devil, the need for cognitive consistency, and the use of probabilistic and analytic thinking.
Kluckhohn and Strodtbeckn (1960) identified three types of culture: present-oriented, which is relatively timeless, traditionless and ignores the future; past-oriented, mainly concerned to maintain and restore traditions in the present; and future-oriented, envisaging a more desirable future and setting out to realise this.
Time has meaning not just to individuals but to whole groups. Emilie Durkheim (1960) saw it as a social construct enabling members of a culture to co-ordinate their activities.
Trompenaars (1993) notes that different individuals and different cultures mau be more or less attracted to past, present or future orientations. Some live entirely in the present, or at least try to. Some live in the future, and they believe the future is coming to them, as a destiny, or that they alone must define it. Others live in a nostalgic past to which everything attempted in the present must appeal.
How Culture Affects Negotiation Strategies?
The strategy chosen by people during the negotiation process may be culturally based, which means that two parts can act similarly because they have chosen the same strategy but each one will act based on its own experiences and set of behaviours.
An extensive research in interpersonal relationships conducted by Erving Goffman (1959) found that we strategically present a social front or impression “which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance” (p.22). On this basis, Goffman (1967) explored the unique concept of face in shaping our individual identity. He views each human interaction as a performance and believes we seek to present consisten impressions to others regarding our desired goals in any interaction.
Researchers believe that face-negotiation theory applies universally across cultures (P. Brown & Levison, 1987; Oetzel & Ting-Toomey, 2003). Although individual verbal and nonverbal behaviours vary widely between cultures, face-negotiations still exists as cultural members engage in presenting and maintaining impressions during their interactions.
Cultural aspects have always been associated with negotiation strategies because culture develops some norms which make the social interaction easier for its members. Norms are functional because they help to predict what kind of behaviour others will have due to the decreased number of options the individual will have about how to behave or act. Norms have shown that people use them and teach them to others in order to make social interaction efficient.
Brett (2001) developed a simple conceptual model illustrating the influence culture may have on negotiators:
According to this model cultural values have a noticeable influence on negotiation interests and priorities, while cultural norms affect negotiation strategies and patterns of interactions.
If culture affects such basic elements of negotiation as: interests, priorities or strategy selection and also given that the influence of culture is mostly subconscious, all differences in any observable aspects of cross-cultural negotiation can always be ascribed to cultural differences between the negotiators. Each individual is emerged in many cultures which influence his negotiating behavior. At the same time, there are many other variables beside culture that also have similar effects. These include individual variables such as negotiators' personality, as well as structural or process variables.
“Negotiators' culture is expressed in their negotiating style. Generally, negotiating style is defined as the way persons from different cultures behave in negotiations.” Salacuse (1999), p. 221. This definition implies that:
- There is a strong link between a person's culture and his negotiating style.
- A negotiating style of a certain person can only be evaluated through an analysis of that person's behavior in several negotiation settings.
To identify cross cultural differences in negotiating styles the scholars typically focus on selected aspects of negotiators' behavior called negotiation factors or traits.
To identify cross cultural differences in negotiating styles the scholars typically focus on selected aspects of negotiators' behavior called negotiation factors or traits. These traits are usually selected based on their relevance and potential variability across different cultures, according to Jeswald Salacuse together with the results of his seminal study on international negotiating styles (Salacuse 1998). Table 1 lists ten negotiation factors he used in his survey together with the range of possible cultural responses to each of them. This selection is based on the work of Hendon and Hendon (1990), Moran and Stripp (1991), Salacuse (1991) as well as on the interviews with practitioners.
As pointed out by Elgström (1994), it is very difficult to assess correctly the relative influence of each variable and it is inappropriate to treat culture as the unique explanatory variable of the negotiation process and outcomes. Therefore, the studies using culture as the only independent variable explaining the differences in any aspects of negotiation are of limited use and in some cases can even be tautological allowing the researchers to demonstrate what they established at the outset of their premise.
Moreover, as pointed out by Avruch (2000) and Sebenius (2002a), not every member of a culturally homogeneous group equally shares all characteristics of this culture. Rubin and Sander (1991) emphasized that the variety of behavioral differences within cultures can be as wide as in cross-cultural comparisons. All these and other difficulties have led Zartman and Berman (1982, p. 224) to label the linkage between culture and negotiation a “most troublesome question” especially in international negotiation research. Although cultural factors undoubtedly play an important role, it is essential not to overestimate their influence on international negotiation.10 This suggestion becomes especially vital in the context of the research result obtained by Dialdin, Kopelman, Adair, Brett, Okumura and Lytle (1999) who claimed that there is a general tendency to ignore the importance of situational factors in favor of cultural explanations which they called cultural attribution error.
Negotiation is one of the most important elements of the selling and buying functions, (Neslin and Greenhalgh, 1983). Negotiation is “a process in which two or more entities come together to discuss common and conflicting interests in order to reach an agreement of mutual benefit” (Harris and Moran, 1987, p. 55).
The negotiation process is a complex process which is significantly influenced by the culture(s) within which the participants are socialised, educated and reinforced (Graham, 1985a; Hamner, 1980; Harnett and Cummings, 1980; Tung, 1982). For example, an individual's conduct during a negotiation encounter is influenced by ethnic heritage (Hawrysh and Zaichkowsky, 1989), and the attitudes and customs which are embedded in his/her culture (Shenkar and Ronen, 1987). Individuals having the same cultural backgrounds tend to display common patterns of thinking, feeling and reacting in line with their cultural heritage. As a result, behaviour in negotiation is consistent within cultures and each culture has its own distinctive negotiation “style”. The intra-cultural literature which examines sellers and buyers from the same cultures, provides evidence for this consistency (e.g. French (Dupont, 1982); Mexicans (Fisher, 1980); Brazilians (Graham, 1983, 1985a); Middle Eastern Arabs (Muna, 1973; Wright, 1983); Chinese (Graham and Lin, 1987; Pye, 1982; Shenkar and Ronen, 1987; Tung 1984) and Japanese (Graham, 1984; Tung, 1984; Van Zandt, 1970)). Despite the rather rich literature pertaining to intra-cultural negotiation behaviours, there is little attention paid to inter-cultural or cross-cultural negotiation behaviour (Adler and Graham, 1989; Mintu and Calantone, 1991).
International sales negotiations that occur across national boundaries are crosscultural (Adler, 1986), and a negotiation is cross-cultural “when the parties involved belong to different cultures and therefore do not share the same ways of thinking, feeling and behaving” (Casse, 1981, p. 152). Such cultural differences prevalent in cross-cultural negotiations can affect the process and its outcome (Hamner, 1980; Tse et al., 1988). Studies attempting a comparison of the various negotiation behaviours in different countries (Adler, 1986; Adler et al., 1987; Burt, 1989; Cambell et al., 1988; Copeland and Griggs, 1985; Foster, 1992; Graham et al., 1988; Harnett and Cummings, 1980; Hellweg et al., 1991; Herbig and Kramer, 1992; Weiss and Stripp, 1985) have mainly adopted an intra-cultural perspective and demonstrated that negotiation behaviours differ between cultures.
Furthermore, a study by Druckman et al. (1976) which attempted to isolate differences which could be attributed to culture only but not variables such as age and sex, indicated that negotiator behaviour differs between cultures. The ability to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes from cross-cultural sales negotiations is believed to be crucial to sales success internationally (Cohen, 1980; Fisher and Ury, 1981; Llich, 1980; Nierenberg, 1963; Raiffa, 1982; Unterman, 1983; Warschaw, 1980). Negotiation outcome is the point in the process when the parties reach some form of agreement on the total set of issues that have been discussed (Dommermuth, 1976). Negotiation outcome can be measured in terms of sale versus no sale (Pennington, 1968) or profits (Dwyer and Walker, 1981; Lewis and F ry, 1977; Pruitt and Lewis, 1975) and satisfaction (Dwyer and Walker, 1981). The latter have been found to be operationally superior to the former (Graham, 1985b, 1985c).
Different cultures affect how individuals will behave in international negotiations. One's own assumptions appear to be normal and realistic, because they are familiar and unquestioned when negotiating domestically (Kimmel, 1994). Therefore, to some extent the negotiators are prisoners of their culture, which in turn act as a regulator of social interaction (Faure, 1993). This can lead to a sense of naivety that ‘people are pretty much the same everywhere'.
The cultural differences that must be taken into account may turn out to be as important as that found in certain contrasting sets of values that determine the hierarchy of negotiating objectives themselves, or as trivial as behavior mannerisms or non-verbal cues that subtly block confidence and trust. Even gestures and other non-verbal behavior may contribute to a psychological unease that makes communication more difficult (Fisher, 1980).
Recent empirical research suggests that cultures differ with respect to the basis of power in negotiation (Brett and Okumura, 1998) and appropriate standards of fairness (Leung, 1997). Cultures also differ with respect to information sharing, both in the extent to which information is viewed as important in negotiation (Brett et. al., 1998), and in the approach to sharing information relevant to reaching integrative agreements (Adair, Okumura & Brett, 1998c). Some cultures share the information about interests and priorities needed to reach integrative agreements directly, while others share the information indirectly, and still others not at all (Aldair at al 1998). Other research shows cultural differences in the emphasis placed on interests, rights, and power in dispute resolution (Tinsley, 1997).
There has been a general tendency for theories about negotiation ignoring the cultural factor and be assumed to be applied universally. However, such idea has been challenged now. For example, Weiss (1993) suggest that international business negotiations are characterised by two levels of differences beyond those found in domestic business negotiations. First, there are individual-level differences in negotiator priorities, preferences, perspectives and scripts; second, there are societal-level differences in national endowments, tastes, legal, economic and political systems, and government involvement.
Global negotiations contain all of the complexity of domestic negotiations, with the added dimension of cultural diversity, which makes communicating effectively more difficult because people from different cultures interpret and evaluate the world differently, accurately communicating needs and interests in ways that people from other cultures will understand becomes more challenging, as does fully understanding their words and meanings.
Although communication becomes more difficult across cultures, creating mutually beneficial options often becomes easier, because when negotiators overcome communications barriers, identifying win-win solutions - mutually beneficial solutions which both parts gain - becomes easier. For instance, based on their different perspectives, a seller from one culture may no longer want to keep a particular business, whereas a buyer from another culture may find the same business an especially attractive prospect.
Most past research identifies negotiation as a product of antecedent inputs and static or synergistic solution production which can result in integrative, distributive, or null outcomes (Adler 1991; Natlandsmyr et al., 1995; Pruitt 1981;). Antecedent inputs include cultural biases, which can be perceptual and cognitive, motivation level, and negotiation behavior (Natlandsmyr et al. 1995). Common biases center on a culture's ability to perceive integrative outcomes and tolerate risk (Bazerman & Carroll 1987). A culture which is highly risk averse and which perceives negotiations as static (zero-sum) will have great difficulty in participating in synergistic negotiations (Natlandsmyr et al. 1995). In contrast to this static/averse cultural perception, research indicates that cultures with a less competitive / individualistic, problem solving orientation are more predisposed to synergistic negotiating (Schultz & Pruitt 1978). This role of competitiveness as an issue in the pursuit of integrative outcomes is further supported by some of Pruitt's (1990) more recent work on competitive orientation as an obstacle to integrative solutions.
Differences, rather than similarities, form the basis of mutually beneficial solutions. The probability that experienced international negotiators will identify substantial areas of difference, and therefore substantial areas for mutual gain, is greater in multicultural than in single-culture situations. In some situations, negotiators are able to go beyond mutually beneficial agreements focus on comparative advantage - the exchange of benefits more highly valued by one party than the other - synergy uses differently valued benefits as a resource in creating new options that would never have become possible without the initial differences. Differences, the source of cross-cultural communication complexities and problems, ultimately become the primary resource in creating mutually beneficial, synergistic solutions.
So, what qualities does a good negotiator need? According to negotiation expert John Graham (1983), the answer depends on the culture involved. American managers believe that effective negotiators act highly rationally. Brazilians managers, to the surprise of many Americans, hold an almost identical view, differing only in replacing integrity with competitiveness as one of the most important qualities of effective negotiators. By contrast, the opinions of Japanese negotiators differ from both Americans and Brazilians. Japanese see an interpersonal, rather than a rational, negotiation style as a leading to success. According to Haru Yamada (1997), Japanese differ from Americans in stressing both verbal expressiveness and listening ability, whereas Americans only emphasize verbal ability. In contrast to American negotiators, Brazilians, Chinese, managers in Taiwan and Japanese emphasize negotiators' rational skills and, to a lesser extent, their interpersonal skills. To the Chinese, a successful negotiator must be an interesting person and should show persistence and determination, the ability to win respect and confidence, preparation and planning skills, product knowledge, good judgement, and intelligence.
The concepts of cultures differed widely throughout the literature review and the reason is because the authors have different ideas about culture, however, they all find consensus in shared patterns of values and basic assumptions, norms and beliefs, as well as behaviours, practises and artefacts as the origin of culture.
Hofstede (2001) and Schein (1987) point that is evident that cultures are different. And not only obvious differences such as artefacts and behaviours, but also implicit differences such as values and assumptions.
The literature review also emphasizes how important is the influence of culture in global negotiations. As we focused on the interactive part of the cross-cultural negotiation, we could identify and analyse several key variables such as information exchange, persuasion, impression formation accuracy, interpersonal attraction, bargaining strategy, status distinction, etc. All these factors have a huge impact in the negotiator's behaviour and it become even more intense in a global negotiation because of the perception of the participants.
The majority of the authors highlight the complexity of the link between cultural values and cultural ideology and negotiation strategy.
The main reason to explain this phenomenon is the fact that cultures are not composed by single features. Every culture is composed by a profile of features and single culture features can be more or less important, depending on the profile they are embedded in.
Another important point to be considered about the complexity of the relationship between culture and negotiation strategy is the fact that the members of a determined culture do not act exactly like each other they do not always follow the cultural prototype, making the cultural profiles overlap.
And yet, the last point to be considered when analysing the attitude of a negotiator in an international negotiation is the external factors, such as type and importance of negotiation, local, pressure and even the strategy adopted by the other negotiator at the table. Negotiators tend to reciprocate each other's strategies in order to adjust their strategies to each other.
The literature suggests that every single detail at the negotiation table has a critical impact on the outcome of the cross-cultural negotiation. And according to Graham (1985a), it may not be enough to select the best negotiator possible, unless efforts are devoted to training them to manage the process of negotiation more effectively and the main point to the training should be the development of cultural awareness skills for the negotiators to allow them to anticipate and understand behaviours in the international environment.
Methodology and Data Collection
A research method is based on the purpose of the field study and its questions. There are two main methods, the quantitative research method, characterized by numerical data and a deductive mode of analysis, and the qualitative research method, which is considered as the understanding and interpretation of data by an inductive mode of analysis (Harrington & Booth, 2004).
Carson, Perry and Gronhaug (2001) argue that in a field study of a complex phenomenon - such as culture and communication is - the qualitative research method allows more flexibility and variation when analysing the results while the quantitative research provides hard data. Both, qualitative as well as quantitative research methods have advantages and disadvantages which need to be balanced before designing a research study. While quantitative research is often less resource demanding and time consuming, the qualitative approach provides a deeper understanding through a more detailed interpretation and evaluation (Harrington & Booth, 2004).
In this present study, a mix of both quantitative and qualitative approaches seems appropriate since the topic is highly complex and differs from case to case.
In order to compare different cultures in terms of negotiation style, the research depends upon reliable data which serve as the base for content development, which quantitative method is regarded as the suitable choice in the process of research completion as well as result-based analysis. With regard to the limitations of quantitative methods, the questionnaire was designed with a comment field, which allow the respondents to state their individual ideas about the question asked.
A mixture of qualitative and quantitative as well as primary and secondary data is utilized and allowed us to triangulate our findings. According to Collins and hussy (2003) triangulation uses the combination of both methodologies in order to overcome potential bias of using simple methods.
The major intention is to identify universally accepted and effective negotiation practices, as well those which only apply to some cultures (House & Hanges, 2004).
The survey will follow the type of Accidental Quota sampling (Burma, 1996, p. 118), which is “researchers select individuals of group on the basis of set criteria”.
The participants of the survey were divided into three main groups, which are:
Group 1 (Reserved) - Japanese (Relationship-focused, formal, monochromic)
Group 2 (Medium) - British (Deal-focused, moderately formal, monochromic)
Group 3 (Expressive) - Brazilian (Relationship focused, formal, polychromic)
All the participants have been involved in international business negotiations for at least five years, which gives them the required knowledgement to respond the questions.
Collection of data is an important part of research and the technique used in the course of collecting the data is very much fundamental in research process (Bryman 2001; Saunders et al 2007). In literature there are two main types of data of which the researcher has appropriately configured as means of collecting his data: primary and secondary data (Saunders et al 2007). While primary data refers to those data collected for the specific purpose of the research project being undertaken, secondary data stands for data collected for other purposes like published summaries and through other means such as books, journals, scholarly articles, news papers, company documents, internet, e-journals and data base among others (Bryman 2001; Saunders et al 2007).
This study started with a depth literature search and then employed a questionnaire for data collection. Questionnaire, according to Verma and Mallick (1999, p.24) “can provide data economically and in a form that lends itself perfectly to the purposes of study” if well-structured. The questionnaire method has proved its efficacy due to its clarity, consistence and validity.
The questionnaire was sent via e-mail to the participants of the three groups and has proved exceptionally efficient in collecting answer due to the geographical distance.
In the questionnaire, a comment field was given to seek other ways of responses that informants may think of. Doing this, the restrictions of quantitative methods were pared.
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