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Is There Really Any Difference?

The survey also explored the degree of difficulty negotiators experience in dealing cross-culturally. Our sample has wide experience across all the major geographic areas, ranging from 67% that have had frequent dealings with US negotiators to a low of 14% that work extensively in Latin America. The table below shows a ‘degree of difference’ that negotiators experience when dealing with counter-parts from other cultures.

Country or Cultural Group

Little Difference

Substantial Difference

United States

52%

24%

South America

14%

52%

French

24%

40%

Germanic

41%

24%

Latin-European

18%

36%

E European / Russian

11%

64%

Scandinavian

42%

24%

China / Sino-based

2%

85%

Japan

5%

80%

India

10%

69%

Middle East

9%

70%

Africa

15%

56%

United Kingdom

59%

16%

There are clearly many factors influencing these perceptions of difference and difficulty. For example, beyond pure cultural style there are the questions of language, legal and tax systems, business values and social norms. The countries that record ‘little difference’ are those where perhaps English is generally more readily accepted as the basis for international communication; where underlying legal and ethical principles are believed to be most predictable and where there is a strong history of international trade.

Follow-up conversations suggest that non-Anglo negotiators are influenced by the degree of frequency with which they deal with companies from the US, UK, Australia etc. So in answering, they are affected by their familiarity with, and the predictability of the approaches that are taken, rather than suggesting there are few differences.

It is often the issue of unpredictability that makes negotiators most uncomfortable. Cross-cultural dealings frequently result in missed or misread signals. This is compounded by dramatic variations in communication and emotional style, together with many opportunities for complete misunderstanding. The results suggest that this in fact places the Anglo negotiator at some disadvantage. Their actions and values are generally better understood by the other side.

So perhaps that perception of being ‘advantaged’ is misplaced and maybe international negotiators need to push for greater investment in creating a true competency, rather than relying on talented individuals

 

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January 2007