Whether it’s to mediate conflict, achieve a consensus or gain alignment among team members, business leaders are continually negotiating. And as markets become increasingly globalized, they sometimes encounter an added layer of complexity: negotiating across cultures.
“Culture entails more than language, traditions, values and norms: it’s also about how we process and prioritize information. Whether we recognize them or not, we all have cultural blind spots that can undermine our ability to effectively negotiate,” says Prof. Kandarp Mehta of IESE’s Entrepreneurship Department and Negotiation Teaching Unit.
According to Prof. Mehta, successful negotiations require a deep awareness of our cultural affinity as well as that of our counterpart. Armed with this knowledge, we are better prepared to identify cultural dissimilarities, recognize tactics and respond with the right strategies to create and claim value.
There are a number of effective diagnostic tools to identify cultural profiles and assess the degree of preparation necessary based on the degree of cultural dissimilarity between negotiating parties.
“Cultural diagnostics are just one approach, however,” he adds. “At the end of the day, anything that helps us avoid the trap of ethnocentrism and gain a better understanding of why people behave the way they do is helpful.” To this end, Prof. Mehta offers four strategies to avoiding cultural blind spots:
1. Prepare your negotiations well
When negotiating, knowledge is power. Prepare well and never take your negotiations for granted.
2. Understand the other side as much as possible
Garner as much information as possible about your counterpart’s cultural profile.
3. Enlist a “cultural interpreter”
In the absence of direct exposure to your counterpart’s culture, engage an “interpreter” with a deep knowledge of both cultures to serve as a bridge.
4. Start with the individual
Never make assumptions about your counterpart based on their ethnicity, gender, religion or nationality. Take a genuine in them as individuals and try to uncover the motivations, objectives and needs that are driving their behavior.
If you’re interested in boosting your ability as a negotiator, learn more about IESE’s “High-Performance Negotiator” program, a three-day immersion designed for senior executives, entrepreneurs and other professionals whose roles require them to negotiate on a regular basis. The next edition will take place on July 5-7, 2021, at IESE’s Barcelona campus.
Want a preview? In just the space of time it takes you to take the elevator, Kandarp Mehta provides you with some tips on negotiating!
Written by business communicator and editor Suzanne Hogseth