Is Religious Culture a Factor in Negotiation: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Iran, Taiwan and the United States

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Globalization and economic openness have contributed to increased international engagement of countries in negotiations in the 21st century. According to Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), that country's major national trading partners include the United States and Iran. In 2008, Taiwan traded with the U.S. $61.8 billion worth of goods and services (representing about 11.6 percent, ranking the U.S. as Taiwan's third largest trading partner) with the United States; and Taiwan's trade with Iran total U.S. $6 billion (representing about 1 percent, and ranking Iran as the 20th largest trading partner.

The relationship between Iran and the United States has been tense since the 1980s (Sadjadpour, 2008; ustreas.gov, 2009). Following breaking the diplomatic relationship with Iran in 1980 the U.S. government imposed a trade embargo on Iran in 1987 (Sadjadpour, 2008; treas.gov, 2009; News Journal, 2009). This trade embargo has been continued for the subsequent years and the political relationship has not been normal (Sadjadpour, 2008).

However, U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and its military and security problems in those countries, neighboring to Iran laid the ground for low level talks between the two countries since 2001 (News Journal, 2009; The Independent, 2009). More recently, President Obama has acknowledged U.S. willingness for having dialogue with Iran (The Independent, 2009). As Sadjadpour (2008) states it, "The relevant question is not whether to talk to Iran but how." Understanding the significant role of Islamic culture (Haynes, 2007) on negotiation styles could ease the obstacles in talking to the Iranians.

Gulbro and Herbig (1994) indicated that different cultures can generate distinct negotiation styles. This paper examines negotiation styles of people from three distinct cultures, those of Iran, Taiwan and the United States--in terms of the impact on these cultures by the dominant religious traditions in each--Islam, Buddhism and Christianity respectively. Knowledge about the impact of culture and religion on negotiation styles is an advantage for anyone involved in negotiations (Chang, 2003).

Cultural negotiation literature is limited, particularly with respect to religious factors in general and to the effect of these factors on Iranian, Taiwanese and U.S. negotiation styles. The research aims to investigate the role of religious culture as a factor in shaping negotiation style of people with different religious beliefs. The negotiation styles of Muslim Iranians, Buddhist Taiwanese and Christian Americans will be examined and compared.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Culture is commonly defined as "a set of shared values and beliefs that characterize national, ethnic, moral and other group behavior "(Faure and Sjostedt, 1993; Craig and Douglas, 2006; Adapa, 2008). Culture also refers to individual cultures revealed through the food, songs, and stories that are exchanged with people outside of that region (Parra, 2001). One further definition of culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid, and therefore to be taught to new members as the appropriate ways to perceive, think, and feel with relation to those problems (Schein, 1997). Simintiras and Thomas (1998) defined culture as "accepted values and norms that influence the way in which people think, feel, and behave." Barbash and Taylor (1997) indicated that culture includes religion, gender, language, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Since sub-cultures, cultures and super-cultures merge and evolve, while being less bounded than before; the idea of culture is more porous and varied than before (Barbash and Taylor, 1997). Lee and Trim (2008) indicated that a shared organizational culture can help with the management of an international partnership arrangement, and senior managers will need to possess knowledge of the national cultural value traits of the people concerned. …