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Cultural Factors in Negotiations – Part 2

As with the Part 1 post of Cultural Factors in Negotiations, different cultures enter into negotiation situations with different procedural expectations.  Common differences include:  sense of time, appropriateness of places, significance of gender and body language, and patterns of communication.  Being aware of these differences and adjusting your negotiation expectations will provide the best environment for a successful negotiation.

Gender, Gestures, and Body Language
Most cultures have specific emphasis for which genders are appropriate to discuss business, as well as specific ideas about gestures and other body language signals.  Try to be accommodating and open-minded on these points, even if they seem off-putting to you.  A common example is with cultures that do not allow women to participate in decision making.  While this may be unseemly to you, remember that your goal is to successfully complete a negotiation, not to overcome generations of tradition from another culture.  Likewise, crossed arms or other body language may well have different significances than you first expect.

Communication Patterns
Take notice of the communication patterns the other party or parties.  Watch for whether several people speak at once or whether they wait respectfully to talk in turn.  Look for pauses before speaking, indicating polite consideration of the last point. Notice if eye contact is steadily held or used only for emphasis.  Is the head held still or nodded in understanding?  Mimicking these communication patterns will demonstrate more effective communication from you.

Information about negotiating with each specific culture is readily available, and you should do diligent research.  Just remember that generalizations are not as effective as careful observation, since every culture has variations throughout a population.

Regardless of the other party’s cultural differences in negotiations, the first steps for you should always be the same:  relax, keep an open mind, and keep a sense of humor.