A negotiation involves two parties coming together to discuss the terms of a transaction or agreement and ideally, reaching a consensus. To negotiate successfully with someone from another culture or nationality, understanding the context that forms his or her negotiating style is important.
Sometimes, to understand another, it’s best to examine and understand yourself first. In America, many factors come into play in our negotiating style.
Americans believe in equal opportunity for everyone. The importance of equality means we will bypass titles and rank if it makes us more effective. An American negotiator will likely have the trust, autonomy and flexibility to make decisions without consulting upper management.
Geographically, Americans come from a vast land where people may identify themselves by the region in which they live (being a Texan vs. being an American). It may also mean a limited exposure to other cultures. As a result, American negotiators may be unsure of protocol making us appear shy or as if we lack interest in the negotiation.
American English has been deeply influenced by sports, science, business, Christian theology and our legal system. The result is a blunt and precise language in a culture of pragmatism and quick decisions.
Culture of Time
Americans view time as a valuable commodity that can be lost if not acted upon quickly. The inherent need to act quickly makes deadlines important to us. Uncomfortable with delays, we want to get straight to the point and act.
Culture of Decisiveness
When a negotiation does not progress quickly, we become impatient and frustrated which many view as adversarial. What we see as assertive and confident, others see as more aggressive than necessary. Our direct language worsens this effect.
Culture of Silence . . . or not
In some cultures, silence is golden. In America, silence reflects uncertainty or lack of knowledge. We tend to fill silences. Other cultures see this as showy or immature. Being impatient, stressed and rushed is so ingrained in our cultural sub consciousness; Americans often don’t realize others may be moving at a different speed. It doesn’t always make us the best listeners.
Culture of Extroverts
In their unease, Americans may use humor as a way to break tension. Culturally, being friendly and out going is valued. This informal, relaxed attitude (and sometimes appearance) may give the impression of someone to be exploited. Don’t be fooled. Americans will be diverse in appearance and attitude at the negotiating table but we will be prepared to bargain.
Now that you have some insight into the American style of negotiating, perhaps you will have a fresh perspective on the many factors that can effect how one approaches a negotiation table regardless from where they hail.
by Sherry Dineen