Culturally Responsive Negotiation Strategies


What are some culturally- responsive negotiation strategies?

Negotiators must take into consideration cultural aspects when developing a negotiation strategy and employing tactics. Effectively modifying one’s approach, however, can be difficult. It takes years to understand another culture deeply, and negotiators typically do not have the time necessary to gain this understanding before beginning a negotiation. Even if negotiators can modify their approach effectively, it does not mean that this will translate automatically into a better negotiation outcome. Research by Francis (1991) suggests that moderate adaptation may be more effective than “acting as the Romans do.” Recent research findings have provided some specific advice about how to negotiate cross-culturally. Rubin and Sander (1991) suggests that during preparation, negotiators should concentrate on understanding three things:

  • Their own biases, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • The other negotiator as an individual.
  • The other negotiator’s cultural context.

Weiss’s (1994) culturally responsive strategies may be arranged into three groups, based on the level of familiarity (low, moderate, high) that a negotiator has with the other party’s culture. Within each group there are some strategies that the negotiator may use individually (unilateral strategies) and others that involve the participation of the other party (joint strategies).

  • Low cultural familiarity – In a low-familiarity context, the following tactics have proven effective:
    • Employ agents or advisers (unilateral strategy).
    • Bring in a mediator (joint strategy).
    • Induce the other party to use your approach (joint strategy).
  • Moderate cultural familiarity – In a moderate-familiarity context, the following tactics have proven effective:
    • Adapt to the other party’s approach (unilateral strategy).
    • Coordinate adjustment (joint strategy).
  • High cultural familiarity – In a high-familiarity context, the following tactics have proven effective:
    • Embrace the other negotiator’s approach (unilateral strategy).
    • Improvise an approach (joint strategy).
    • Effect symphony (joint strategy).

The following personal factors tend to predict success in intercultural negotiation and should be considered when selecting an intercultural negotiation strategy.

  • Conceptual complexity – People who are conceptually complex show less social distance to different others. This also tends to relate to a general interest in and appreciation for other cultures. This corresponds closely with flexibility, patience, and cultural sensitivity and tolerance.
  • Categorization – People who use broad categories adjust to new environments better than do narrow categorizers.
  • Empathy – This entails the ability to appreciate the position and influences on the other party. That is, it is a general openness to different points of view
  • Sociability – This regards a disposition or willingness to engage with others beyond the context of the immediate negotiation or task.
  • Stereotypes – A tendency to be critical and not readily accept stereotypes are show to increase effectiveness.
  • Task orientation – Focusing on a task can have differing effects on inter-cultural negotiations. It can help individuals avoid biases or heuristics that can harm communication objective. Conversely, it can cause individuals to fail to recognize and adjust for the cultural aspects affecting the negotiation. Generally, task orientation is most effective when it accompanies a willingness to be collaborative to resolve conflict.

When effectuating a negotiation strategy, seek to understand the other party’s culture. Find out how to show respect in the other culture. Identify cultural nuances, such as perception of personal relationships, physical interaction, and time or deadlines.  Anticipate and seek to identify strategies and tactics that may cause misunderstandings due to cultural differences. For example, recognizing that some cultures may not share your view of what constitutes power. You should also attempt to analyze cultural differences to identify differences in values that afford the opportunity to expand the pie. Avoid attribution errors, which is the tendency to ascribe someone’s behavior or the occurrence of an event to the wrong cause. Some actions and decisions of the counter party will be reflective of cultural norms; however, you need to be conscious that some decisions and actions in a negotiation are subjective and not related to cultural tendencies.

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