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Culture is one of the fundamental factors that have a significant impact on the outcome of a given negotiation process. The cultural differences inherent to the diverse groups of people in the society pose substantial problems in cross-cultural negotiations particularly in situations where there exist relationship-oriented and information-oriented societies. Moreover, they have an important influence on the discussion styles that are adopted in addition to the negotiating parties’ gender, international, experience, industry background, and organizational factors. The cultural factors that are inherent to the society have led to stereotyping about particular communities or group of people during cross-cultural negotiations. However, the majority of these regional generalizations are more often improper and incorrect given that the outcome of a particular negotiation process is dependent on a number of factors. Therefore, cultural differences pose substantial problems especially for international conflicts and transnational collective arguments. The main reason for this lies in language differences, personal values, nonverbal behaviors, and strategic decision-making processes.
Negotiation is an essential business tool that involves the dialogue between different groups of people or parties whose intention is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Moreover, the aim of negotiation is to enable the parties that are in conflict or dispute to resolve their points of difference that will satisfy their various interests fully. Talks are significantly affected by the differences in the knowledge and characteristics of a certain group of individuals with differing opinions and that are defined by their language, social habits, cuisine, eating habits, and arts. Culture also includes the shared patterns of interaction and behavior acquired by a particular group of persons by socialization. Therefore, it creates a shared identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group and socially transmitted from one generation to the other. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to discuss the role that culture plays in the negotiation process.
Culture’s Role in the Negotiation Process
The international negotiations between businesses, people, and governments are continuously being affected by the cultural diversities that exist among these persons. In the modern business environment, the society has increasingly become integrated due to the globalization effects. Globalization has been influenced by the increasing interdependence that exists among different people, countries, and enterprises that conduct similar business. It is interdependence that exists between people, nations, and businesses that are culturally diverse. So, it has put a spotlight on culture, which accordingly affects almost all manufacturing processes given that it is socially transmitted from one generation to the next. It consists of the shared behavioral patterns, beliefs, norms, and values of a particular group of people. These factors are transferred to the next generation by use of symbols that constitute the distinctive human achievements. The traditional ideas and shared values present an essential core of business given that they form the basis of actions individuals always take.
In cross-cultural negotiation practices, there exist a number of cultural factors that cause difficulties in any discussion process. These aspects are the ones that will be discussed in depth so as to highlight its crucial role in international business negotiations. Conversation skills are essential in the whole negotiation process in addition to excellent communication skills especially in the architectural field. The particular cultural characteristic that defines its critical role in the communication process involves its powerful but subtle nature. Moreover, culture is highly crucial in shaping the identity, the judgement, and perceptions of individuals in the society given its multi-layered nature. Furthermore, its dynamic nature means that different individuals will portray different cultural diversities amongst themselves. It is important to note that a number of existing world conflicts is perception driven by the individual persons. The other factors, such as ethnocentrism and miscommunication, may influence the outcome of the negotiation process.
Given the diverse nature of the cultural factors, the processes of conflict and its resolution, including negotiation, can, therefore, be significantly culturally defined. In order to identify and assess the role of culture in the negotiation process, it is important to note the principal factors that cause substantial differences in cross-cultural negotiations. They include the negotiating goal, the attitude during negotiation, the risk-taking potential of the people, sensitivity to time, emotionalism, communication, and team organization. In addition to this, there are other factors causing enormous problems in transnational negotiation such as the form of agreement to be reached, the process of building an understanding, and personal style. The major points of contrariety that exist between various negotiation styles are different time expectations, communication approaches, emotionalism, and motivational goals. Therefore, the variations that exist in the underlying cultural concepts are evident within the cross-cultural negotiation processes, which in their turn strengthen the essential role of culture in transnational business negotiations.
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The disparities that exist in the different negotiation styles of a particular group of people are reflected in the interpersonal attitudes and individuals’ negotiation goals. These cultural diverse factors may result in higher economic outcomes for the negotiation process or the development of blossoming business relationships amongst those involved. The recent developments in the global politics, such as the decline of American competitiveness in the global market, necessitate the need to understand the importance of culturally-based international business negotiations. In addition, globalization effects have underscored the need for including cultural factors concerning international business transactions between a diverse group of people, governments, and businesses in the negotiation process. Therefore, the role of culture can be drawn from the effect that such beliefs, customs, values, and traditions have on negotiation effectiveness. The ten cultural factors identified above affect the negotiating ability of the individuals involved in various ways.
The cultural factors such as negotiating goal, sensitivity to time, emotionalism, communication, and team organization have a substantial effect on the discussion ability as well as its effectiveness. The negotiation process is affected by the fact that culture shapes the role of a single cultural dimension. Moreover, it determines the degree of cultural compatibility that exists between different negotiating parties and the interactive effects that are seen with the multiple cultural dimensions. Furthermore, given the fact that negotiation is a social interaction model, it can be used by two or more parties that are unable to resolve their points of dispute. It is also important to understand the mental model that is used during the negotiation process by learning what the different negotiating parties mean during the discussion. In addition, gaining an understanding of the proper outcome of a negotiation process in most cases leads to its successful completion.
Since culture has an effect on the negotiating ability and its effectiveness, the mental models of negotiation of one group of people may different depending on various types of cultural orientation. The negotiation process is usually carried out by the direct confrontation between the negotiators either through electronic means or face-to-face confrontation. However, the discussion process may be undertaken by third parties who will act as agents of the individual parties in conflict. Such a situation is evident in the mediation process which involves the input of an impartial and independent third party known as a mediator. The third party players act as agents or representatives of the parties from various points of otherness as they try to facilitate the mediation process. Therefore, the third party involvement is not evident in all cultures posing a cultural issue. In addition, some parties in dispute may feel uncomfortable with a third party acting as a go-between and thus may reject such persons from conveying information amongst them.
Negotiation can be conducted on two broad levels. These include negotiation that is directed towards the resolution of a particular dispute or conflict, as well as transactional negotiation between buyers and sellers. So, culture will significantly influence the effectiveness of negotiation process outcome depending on the discussion type undertaken by the parties. However, irrespective of the goal of the negotiation process, there exists a perceived incompatibility of purposes between the parties in discuss. Dispute resolution negotiations are employed in circumstances whereby there exists a barrier to goal attainment. Thus, the goals of the negotiation process will be directed towards resolving the issue around blocking of goal attainment. Culture has a substantial effect on the definition of a dispute given that it clearly differentiates it from conflict, which is a more general term. According to Felstiner, Abel, & Sarat, 1980), a dispute can be considered to be a rejected claim that is more than just a perceived goal incompatibility.
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The cultural elements have a significant influence on the social interactions that exist between different groups of people. The cultural norms of the humanity help to define both appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the society as well as form the philosophical basis of its institutions. The last ones play an essential role in preserving the society-specific values and norms by giving such institutions moral authority, and fostering social interaction. It also ensures that the negotiators have the moral authority of resolving their own conflicts by empowering them to solve their own issues.
Individualism vs Collectivism
The most significant factor that results in culturally-diverse approach to negotiation is individualism vs collectivism. Individualism vs collectivism determines the extent to which the human beings in the society are autonomous in the various social groups. Individualistic cultures recognize the autonomy of the person by recognizing the individual accomplishments in the society. In addition, the individualistic societies, the economic, social, and legal institutions play a crucial role in ensuring that individualistic accomplishments are rewarded.
In those cultures that are of a collective nature, there exists a greater focus on the social obligations of individuals in the society. The economic, social, and legal institutions in the society place emphasis on the personal sacrifice of human beings in the community rather than particular achievements. Therefore, those individuals who sacrifice their own interests for the greater good of the society are revered and rewarded by placing the societal goals above the individual rights. In both the collectivism and individualism cultures, there exist the basic preferences of culture by enabling the members of a particular group differentiate themselves from those outside the group. In individualistic cultures, the self-identity factors consist of attributes that are independent of the in-group membership. On the other hand, the self-identity of the members of the group in collectivist cultures is dependent on the in-group membership. Thus, individualism vs collectivism cultures determine the individual goals that the parties have in the negotiation process.
The individualism and collectivism factors have a substantial impact on the outcome of a conflict-resolution based negotiation process. It is because the individualistic people will not change their motivational orientation in the instance of a change of the negotiating party. So, such individuals will be less cooperative and thus negatively influencing the outcome of a dispute-resolution based negotiation. On the other hand, collectivism culture is characterized by individuals with cooperative motivational orientation. Consequently, such persons may be able to reach a mutually acceptable agreement by varying their behavior depending on the party that they are negotiating with. Collectivist persons have the virtue of cooperating while dealing with cooperative negotiators. However, such a virtue of collective motivational orientation is not evident in instances where there exist competitive orientations. Thus, distinguishing competitive and individualistic behavior is highly essential in the negotiation process. It is because individualistic characters are less concerned about the progress of the negotiation process as long as all goes on well with them.
Egalitarianism vs Hierarchy
The egalitarianism versus hierarchy factors are essential cultural factors contributing to defining the extent to which the social structure of a particular culture is differentiated into ranks or flat. Those structures are of a hierarchical nature, and there is a significant emphasis on social power that’s determined by the individual’s social status. In such communities, those persons who are considered to be social superiors are granted more privilege and power than the social inferiors. Thus, the individuals in the society that are regarded as socially inferior are often required to defer to the individuals considered to be superior and willingly comply with their demands. Therefore, such societal structures that are differentiated into ranks pose a significant problem for negotiators in case a conflict arises within the hierarchical structure. However, taking into consideration the fact that the social inferiors are expected to comply fully with the directives of the social superiors, there exist fewer instances of conflicts between members of the different societal ranks.
Moreover, in hierarchical social structures, the individuals in the society are not expected to challenge the directives that are issued by those with a high social status. Therefore, it means that the creation of ranks in the social structure significantly reduces the frequency of conflicts. In egalitarian social structures, the persons that have a significant status in the society are expected to consider the interests of societal inferiors when issuing their directives. Thus, the equal social structure exposes the loopholes that exist in the hierarchical structures that pose a threat to the social structure. The equal societal system is accommodative in nature as it gives room for confrontation between the individuals that are considered to be equals in the society. However, in hierarchical cultures, any conflicts that may arise between the social unequals are less likely to be solved by direct confrontation between the members of different social ranks. In such instances, such disputes are more likely to be handled by deference to the superiors in a higher social rank.
It is evident that direct, face-to-face negotiations can only be made possible in egalitarian social cultures that empower the societal members to solve conflicts amongst themselves through confrontation. In addition, such cultures encourage the influence of a mediator or a facilitator in the process of conflict resolution. The nature in which conflict is handled in egalitarian societies is thus different from the hierarchical societies. These differences exist due to the fact that the negotiating parties have different views on the basis of the power of each party in the negotiation process. In egalitarian cultures, the power of each party during this process is determined by the current situation under negotiation. On the other hand, hierarchical structures are usually characterized by vertical interpersonal relationships in which there exist differences in social status based on sex, age, education, and organizational position. Such negotiators will employ all their power during the direct confrontations and face-to-face arguments in order to sway the direction of the negotiation process towards their advantage.
High vs Low-Context Communication
It is a cultural factor that involves the degree to which the communication that is made within the culture is of direct or indirect nature. In cultural set ups that are of a high-context nature, there exist a limited amount of information within the message being conveyed. Therefore, the outcome of the negotiation process will be influenced to a larger extent by the context in which the information is transmitted. Thus, the meaning of any negotiation process that is conducted in a high-context environment is inferred by the parties involved rather than directly interpreted. However, in low-context cultures, the information that’s conveyed during the communication process is solution-minded in addition to being action oriented. Information that’s necessary for effective decision-making is clearly detailed in the communication processes thus ensuring that each party is knowledgeable.
In addition to the information availability in the communication process, both high-context and low-context cultures can be influenced by the willingness of disputants to solve their disputes by confrontation. The ability of the parties in conflict to discuss and confront their issues directly determines the outcome of the negotiation process. Additionally, it will also have an effect on the party’s ability to conceal their disagreements and ill feelings against each other. So, understanding of these two cultural backgrounds is a key to defining the effectiveness of conflict-resolution mechanisms using the negotiation approach. Such factors are also evident in cross-cultural business negotiations between different buyers and sellers whereby each party has their way of thinking to the negotiating table. They may also affect the strategic negotiation processes of the negotiators where there exist substantial cultural differences amongst the parties in conflict.
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