Cross-Cultural Business Negotiations

By Donald W. Hendon; Rebecca Angeles Hendon et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction

When two people communicate, they rarely talk about precisely the same subject, for effective meaning is flavored by each person's own cognitive world and cultural conditioning. Negotiation is the process by which at least two parties try to reach an agreement on matters of mutual interest. The negotiation process proceeds as an interplay of perception, information processing, and reaction, all of which turn on images of reality (accurate or not), on implicit assumptions regarding the issue being negotiated, and on an underlying matrix of conventional wisdom, beliefs, and social expectations. Negotiations involve two dimensions: a matter of substance and the process. The latter is rarely a matter of relevance when negotiations are conducted within the same cultural setting. Only when dealing with someone from another country with a different cultural background does process usually become a critical barrier to substance; in such settings process first needs to be established before substantive negotiations can commence. This becomes more apparent when the negotiation process is international, when cultural differences must be bridged.

When negotiating internationally, this translates into anticipating culturally related ideas that are most likely to be understood by a person of a given culture. Discussions are frequently impeded because the two sides seem to be pursuing different paths of logic; in any cross- cultural context, the potential for misunderstanding and talking past each other is great. Negotiating internationally almost certainly means having to cope with new and inconsistent information, usually accompanied by new behavior, social environments, and even sights and smells. The greater the cultural differences, the more likely barriers to communication and misunderstandings become.

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