Intercultural negotiation is the topic of a new episode of one of our favourite podcasts, Negotiations Ninja, hosted by Mark Raffan (LinkedIn). It deals with the question of culture in the context of negotiation. It’s a recommended listen for anyone who is involved in negotiations that cross cultural boundaries—and as Joana Matos (LinkedIn), an expert in intercultural communication at Reykjavik University, points out in the discussion, almost all negotiations are intercultural.
Two key points stood out for us:
Don’t overestimate the importance of globalisation in intercultural negotiation
People around the world are increasingly united by common cultural reference points—whether it’s TikTok or Netflix, K-Pop or the Apple AppStore. However, it is important not to take communication for granted. Cultural differences underpin important differences in expectations and if you approach an intercultural negotiation without proper preparation these unspoken differences can become obstacles to an agreement.
The key to better intercultural communication is more communication
Joana made another point that we very much endorse. However prepared you may be for intercultural communication, the less you can take for granted about your partner’s understanding the more you need to communicate with them. That means not only repeating your message in different media to ensure it has been received loud and clear, but also that you need to work with your partners to establish ground rules of communication.
We have seen many situations in which one party is fretting that an email went unanswered, while the other side has been completely oblivious. The answer is almost always to pay a visit, or where that is not possible, to pick up the phone. You can then ensure that the substance of your message has been received. Importantly you can also ensure that you are reaching a decision maker and raise the question of communication with them. You may need to say explicitly: we treat email communications as potentially formal and important exchanges and we expect an answer.