Negotiating the cultural divide

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

Anyone who has ever tried to decide where to eat with a large group can attest that negotiations are tough.

Imagine making that decision with people who all speak different languages, come from different cultures, and have radically differing tastes in food. Suddenly, you’re wondering if you’re even going to eat at all.

Now envision yourself and the same group engaged in making business decisions with entire markets hinging on your ability to navigate these linguistic, cultural and personality differences. With global trade expected to grow even as the new U.S. administration enters a new era of protectionism, it’s as important as ever to understand the human nuances involved in negotiations.

For those of you dealing with international partners or vendors, knowing these folkways is just as important as preparing for a successful negotiation outcome. Even those who are experts in negotiation must familiarize themselves with cultural differences to gain more insight about the other party and to bring the parties closer to a deal.

To those seeking to understand the role of culture in negotiations, I recommend the best-selling book by Terri Morrison, “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands, Doing Business Around the World.” In her book, Ms. Morrison sets her readers up for success by explaining that success in the global marketplace begins with an expert understanding of international business etiquette, practices and cultural cues. Without it, businesses and organizations cannot develop a competitive network of customers, suppliers and talent.