Negotiating Across Cultures

Negotiations are a huge part of business. It is a core activity for doing business anywhere and going international makes it even more complex. Making deals across boarders adds many new factors to consider during negotiations. Cultures vary on the preferred pace of negotiations, relationships and status of people involved, time sensitivity, risk taking, collectivism, emotionalism and the level of formality. Here are five countries to give an idea of how negotiations can differ.

1. Finland prefers direct communication. They like to get to the point and are serious. Meetings should start on time and there is generally no small talk. Finns don’t use their emotions to make business decisions so it is better to use objective facts over subjective feelings. Individuals are expected to make decisions so there does not have to be a consensus.

2. India puts a heavy emphasis on relationships. While the meetings will be formal and structured, Indians are always very friendly during negotiations. They find it rude to say “No”, so be polite and evasive with refusals. India is a polychronic culture, so negotiations will be lengthy. There is no hurry! Keep in mind that feelings are much more persuasive than facts. Indians are likely to take risks but decisions are made within the top of the company.

3. Mexico also want to build long term relationships with business partners. Negotiations are friendly and leisurely, but indirect. It is rude to say “No” outright. Mexicans are swayed by emotions rather than logic. Decisions will be a consensus made by a few people with the highest status.

4. Turkey also appreciates relationships and insists on building them before negotiations. The process is slow and expect a lot of small talk. It is important to be polite and respectful when doing business with Turks. They are not opposed to taking risks if you make a good argument based on feelings and emotions rather than facts.

5. United States like to build relationships quickly with brief small talk, and then move on to negotiations. Americans are very informal and prefer to be direct. Negotiations are very fast paced because Americans prefer decisions and solutions to be made quick. Decisions and arguments should be made with facts rather than feelings. Negotiation teams are made up of those most qualified so anyone with sufficient knowledge can make a decision.

These are only five countries to give an example of how negotiations differ by culture. Since negotiating is a large part of international business, make sure to know how negotiating is different in the country you are doing business in. Please share any other cultural differences you have encountered during negotiations!


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