Life is full of coincidences.  Recently, I agreed  to teach a class on cross-cultural negotiation.  A few days later, the Harvard Negotiation Project published an article entitled, “Dear Negotiation Coach: How Can I  Improve My Cross- Cultural Negotiation Skills?” (February 16, 2021). (“Negotiation Coach”)

Besides my academic teaching interest in the topic, I am also interested because  Los Angeles is multi-cultural. Indeed, the Los Angeles  County has over 140 cultures  speaking  224 languages. (,diverse%20populations%20in%20the%20world.)

Thus, I do not even have to go abroad to run into cultural issues. They can occur in my own conference room in downtown Los Angeles ( in a post -COVID-19 world!)

Authored by the PONS staff, the article begins with a question from a reader who, after losing out on a deal in India, asks how to improve  his/her cross- cultural negotiation skills.

The first piece of advice is not to stereotype. The authors note that cultural misunderstandings often occur because we stereotype. That is, we hold a “standardized mental picture “ in our minds of what a group should be like.  (  Instead, we should rely on “prototypes” or “…cultural averages on dimensions of behavior or values.” (Id. at Negotiation Coach)

Importantly, the authors note that we should also be aware of our own cultural prototypes so that we can anticipate how the other party might react to our own bargaining behavior.  (Id.)

The second piece of advice is to not interpret the behavior of the other negotiator using our own values, beliefs, customs, and behaviors.  (This is comparing apples to oranges!). Rather, we should research and learn what are the behaviors, beliefs, customs, and values of the other party’s culture so that we understand their point of reference. (Id.). In addition, if the other party is negotiating as part of a team or on behalf of an organization,  we should also study the context of this situation. That is, put the negotiations into context by learning not only more about the person with whom you will be negotiating but any organization to which he/she belongs which will  play a role in the negotiation. Learn as much about the organization and about the members of the negotiating team as is possible.

With this knowledge in hand, hopefully you will not misread the signals from the other party. Thus, if the other party remains silent for a period of time, you will understand that it is a cultural  thing, and not a sign of disinterest, disrespect or  of being ignored.  You, too, will remain silent and give the other person all the time in the world to respond, thereby signaling that you respect his/her cultural norms.

… Just something to think about.






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