Negotiations are part of almost every communication. We talk to come to an agreement with our counterpart. This could be simply to decide on a time for a meeting, to approve a business strategy, or to make a deal. In global business more often than not these negotiations are done using the English language. Whether you are a native speaker or not, the way you use English to negotiate is very likely determined by the cultural wiring of your brain.
In other words, our behavioral preferences drive the way we use the tool of language. Many European and American cultures use a low context communication style which is best described as explicit. In this environment, you communicate well if you use precise language which is simple and clear. Messages are best expressed and understood at face value. If necessary, content blocks are repeated to clarify and to ensure that the recipient comprehends the message unambiguously.
Then there’s open disagreement: negotiators often assume that more expressive cultures are also more confrontational, but that isn’t always the case. In some countries such as France and Israel emotions pour out, including disagreement. But for other very expressive cultures – such as Brazil Mexico and Saudi Arabia – open disagreement could be seen as insulting. Some less expressive cultures – such as Denmark Germany and the Netherlands – see open disagreement and debate as positive and necessary as long as its expressed calmly and factually. Others tend to be both, less emotional and non-confrontational, which means you’ll have to be especially attuned to settle cues for both positive and negative responses.
It’s also important to learn how others build trust. There are two distinct types: cognitive and affective, and in a business setting the dominant type of trust varies from one culture to another. Cognitive trust is task-based. It comes from the head and is built on your counterpart’s accomplishment, skills, and reliability.
American culture offers a good example of this kind of trust: in the United States getting too emotionally close to a business counterpart is seen as unprofessional. And mixing the personal and professional is seen as risky.
Affective trust is relationship-based and comes from the heart. It arises from the feelings of emotional closeness, empathy, and friendship that are developed gradually through sharing meals, evening drinks, and coffee breaks. In China for instance, negotiators are unlikely to trust their counterparts until an affective connection has been made.
Adapting your negotiation approach accordingly will help you get to yes, or si, ja, oui, hai and da.
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