Negotiating with “Romans” — Part 2

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Managers are increasingly called on to negotiate with people from other cultures. Cross-cultural negotiation need not be as frustrating nor as costly as it is often made out to be; it can be a productive and satisfying experience. Which of these outcomes a manager achieves depends in part on the negotiation strategies taken in response to — or better, in anticipation of — the counterpart’s plans and behavior. There are eight culturally responsive strategies for a manager to consider (see Figure 1).1 Clearly, the quality of a negotiation outcome and a manager’s satisfaction with it also depend on how well he or she chooses and implements one of these approaches.

This article presents five steps for selecting a culturally responsive strategy and then offers various tips for implementation, such as making the first move, monitoring feedback, and modifying the approach. These guidelines reflect four basic, ongoing considerations for a strategy: its feasibility for the manager, its fit with the counterpart’s likely approach and therefore its capacity to lead to coherent interaction, its appropriateness to the relationship and circumstances at hand, and its acceptability in light of the manager’s values. There are challenges involved in all of these efforts, and they are pointed out below rather than ignored or belittled, as happens in much cross-cultural negotiation literature. Thus, from this article, managers stand to gain both an operational plan and the heightened awareness necessary to use a culturally responsive negotiation strategy effectively.

Selecting a Strategy

Every negotiator is advised to “know yourself, the counterpart, and the situation.”2 This advice is useful but incomplete, for it omits the relationship — the connection — between the negotiator and the counterpart.3 (For clarity, the negotiator from the “other” culture will be called the “counterpart” in this article.) Different types of relationships with counterparts and even different phases of a relationship with a particular counterpart call for different strategies.

For the cross-cultural negotiator, the very presence of more than one culture complicates the process of understanding the relationship and “knowing” the counterpart. In contrast to the “within-culture” negotiator, the cross-cultural negotiator cannot take common knowledge and practices for granted and thereby simply concentrate on the individual. It becomes important to actively consider the counterpart in two respects: as a member of a group and as an individual.


1. S.E. Weiss, “Negotiating with ‘Romans’ — Part 1,” Sloan Management Review, Winter 1994, pp. 51–61. All examples that are not referenced come from personal communication or the author’s experiences.

2. See J.K. Murnighan, Bargaining Games: A New Approach to Strategic Thinking in Negotiations (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1992), p. 22.

3. G.T. Savage, J.D. Blair, and R.L. Sorenson, “Consider Both Relationships and Substance When Negotiating Strategically,” The Executive 3 (1989): 37–47; and

S.E. Weiss, “Analysis of Complex Negotiations in International Business: The RBC Perspective,” Organization Science 4 (1993): 269–300.

4. Attending to both culture and the individual has also been supported by:

S.H. Kale and J.W Barnes, “Understanding the Domain of Cross-National Buyer-Seller Interactions,” Journal of International Business Studies 23 (1992): 101–132.

5. To speak of an “American culture” is not to deny the existence of cultures within it that are based on ethnic, geographic, and other boundaries. In fact, the strategies described in Part 1 of this article and the five steps described here can be applied to these cross-cultural negotiations as well. These ideas deserve the attention of those, for example, who are concerned about diversity in the workplace.

6. C. Thubron, Behind the Wall (London: Penguin, 1987), pp. 158, 186–187.

7. See R. Keesing as quoted in:

W.B. Gudykunst and S. Ting-Toomey, Culture and Interpersonal Communication (Newbury Park, California: Sage, 1988), p. 29.

8. H. Binnendijk, ed., National Negotiating Styles (Washington, D.C.: Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State, 1987).

9. For a review of popular books, see:

S. Weiss-Wik, “Enhancing Negotiator’s Successfulness: Self-Help Books and Related Empirical Research,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 27 (1983): 706–739. For a recent research review, see:

P.J.D. Carnevale and D.G. Pruitt, “Negotiation and Mediation,”Annual Review of Psychology 43 (1992): 531–582.

10. For self-examinations, see:

G. Althen, American Ways: A Guide for Foreigners in the United States(Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 1988);

E.T. Hall and M.R. Hall, Understanding Cultural Differences(Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 1990); and

E.C. Stewart and M.J. Bennett, American Cultural Patterns (Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 1991).

The views of outsiders include:

A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1805–1859 (New York: Knopf, 1980);

L. Barzini, The Europeans (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1983), pp. 219–253; and

Y. Losoto, “Observing Capitalists at Close Range,” World Press Review, April 1990, pp. 38–42.

11. The original framework appeared in:

S.E. Weiss with W. Stripp, “Negotiating with Foreign Business Persons: An Introduction for Americans with Propositions on Six Cultures” (New York: New York University Graduate School of Business Administration, Working Paper No. 85–6, 1985).

12. Although I am not certain, my recollection is that the clients relented, and the bank team made the trip to South Africa. The point, however, is that the banker took a stand on an issue that struck values dear to him. Other examples include whether or not to make “questionable payments” and how to handle social settings in France and in Japan when one is allergic to alcohol or cigarette smoke. On payments, see:

T.N. Gladwin and I. Walter, Multinationals under Fire (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1980), p. 306. On smoking, see:

W.E. Schmidt, “Smoking Permitted: Americans in Europe Have Scant Protection,” New York Times, 8 September 1991, p. 31.On the other hand, some customs, while different, may not be abhorrent or worth contesting. An American male unaccustomed to greeting other men with “kisses” (the translation itself projects a bias) might simply go along with an Arab counterpart who has initiated such a greeting.

13. Murnighan (1992), p. 28; and

Kale and Barnes (1992), p. 122.

14. J.L. Barsoux and P. Lawrence, “The Making of a French Manager,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 1991, p. 60.

15. For example, for each of the four categories respectively, see:

D. Chalvin, L’entreprise négociatrice (Paris: Dunod, 1984) and

C. Dupont, La négociation: conduite, théorie, applications, 3rd ed. (Paris: Dalloz, 1990);

N.C.G. Campbell et al., “Marketing Negotiations in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” Journal of Marketing 52 (1988): 49–62 and

G. Fisher, International Negotiation: A Cross-Cultural Perspective(Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 1980);

L. Bellenger, La négociation (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1984) and

A. Jolibert and M. Tixier, La négociation commerciale (Paris: Les éditions ESF, 1988); and

Hall and Hall (1990).

16. Nonfiction writings include:

J. Ardagh, France Today (London: Penguin, 1987);

L. Barzini, (1983);

S. Miller, Painted in Blood: Understanding Europeans (New York: Atheneum, 1987); and

T. Zeldin, The French (New York: Vintage, 1983).

Fictional works include the classics by Jean-Paul Sartre and Andre Malraux and, more recently, A. Jardin, Le Zèbre (Paris: Gallimard, 1988).

17. I will leave to others the debate over the effectiveness of training focused on “skills” versus other types of training. Somewhat surprisingly, some research on individuals’ perceived need to adjust suggests that “interpersonal” and documentary training have comparable effects. See:

P.C. Earley, “Intercultural Training for Managers,” Academy of Management Review 30 (1987): 685–698.

Note also that a number of negotiation seminars offered overseas do not directly increase familiarity with negotiation customs in those countries. These seminars import and rely on essentially American concepts and practices.

18. On cultural assimilator exercises, see:

R.W. Brislin et al., Intercultural Interactions: A Practical Guide (Beverly Hills, California: Sage, 1986).

19. J. Watson and R. Lippitt, Learning across Cultures (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1955), as quoted in: A.T. Church, “Sojourner Adjustment,” Psychological Bulletin 91 (1982): 544.

20. See Savage, Blair, and Sorenson (1989), p. 40.

The following all include relationship factors (e.g., interest interdependence, relationship quality, concern for relationship) in their grids for strategic selection:

R. Blake and J.S. Mouton, The Managerial Grid (Houston, Texas: Gulf, 1964);

Gladwin and Walter (1980); and

K.W. Thomas and R.H. Kilmann, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (Tuxedo, New York: Xicom, Inc., 1974).

21. For more extensive lists, see:

Weiss (1993).

22. D.G. Pruitt and J.Z. Rubin, Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate, and Settlement (New York: Random House, 1986), pp. 33–34.

23. Weiss with Stripp (1985);

F. Gauthey et al., Leaders sans frontières (Paris: McGraw-Hill, 1988), p. 149–156, 158; and

R. Moran and W. Stripp, Dynamics of Successful International Business Negotiations (Houston, Texas: Gulf, 1991).

24. P.H. Gulliver, Disputes and Negotiations (New York: Academic, 1979), pp. 186–190, 200–207.

25. G. Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1984).

26. The literature on women and negotiation includes: M. Gibb-Clark, “A Look at Gender and Negotiations,” The Globe and Mail, 24 May 1993, p. B7;

J. Ilich and B.S. Jones, Successful Negotiating Skills for Women (New York: Playboy Paperbacks, 1981); and

C. Watson and B. Kasten, “Separate Strengths? How Men and Women Negotiate” (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University, Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Working Paper). On gender-based communication, see:

D. Tannen, You Just Don’t Understand (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1990).

27. N.J. Adler, “Pacific Basin Managers: Gaijin, Not a Woman,”Human Resource Management 26 (1987): 169–191.

This corresponds with the observation that “the different groups a person belongs to are not all equally important at a given moment.” See:

K. Lewin, Resolving Social Conflicts (New York: Harper & Row, 1948), p. 46, according to:

Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey (1988), p. 201.

28. A. Riding, “Not Virile? The British Are Stung,” New York Times, 20 June 1991, p. A3.

See the disguises used by a female American reporter in: S. Mackey, The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom (New York: Meridian, 1987).

On the other hand, the all-woman New York City-based firm of Kamsky and Associates has been widely recognized for their business deals in the People’s Republic of China. See also:

C. Sims, “Mazda’s Hard-driving Saleswoman,” New York Times, 29 August 1993, Section 3, p. 6; and

M.L. Rossman, The International Business Woman (New York: Praeger, 1987).

29. This interaction format draws on a game theoretic perspective and borrows more directly from:

T.A. Warschaw, Winning by Negotiation (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980), p. 79.

30. T.C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), p. 53–58. The prominence of many courses of action would seem, however, to rest on assumptions that are culturally based and thus restricted rather than universal.

31. On risk-taking propensity, see:

Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey (1988), pp. 153–160.

32. For discussions of similarity-attraction theory and research, see:

K.R. Evans and R.F. Beltramini, “A Theoretical Model of Consumer Negotiated Pricing: An Orientation Perspective,” Journal of Marketing 51 (1987): 58–73;

J.N.P. Francis, “When in Rome? The Effects of Cultural Adaptation on Intercultural Business Negotiations,” Journal of International Business Studies 22 (1991): 403–428; and

J.L. Graham and N.J. Adler, “Cross-Cultural Interaction: The International Comparison Fallacy,” Journal of International Business Studies 20 (1989): 515–537.

33. N. Dinges, “Intercultural Competence,” in Handbook of Intercultural Training, vol 1., D. Landis and R.W. Brislin, eds. (New York: Pergamon, 1983), pp. 176–202.

34. Individual members do instigate change and may, over time, cause a group to change some of its values. Still, at any given point, a group holds to certain values and beliefs.

35. See Dinges (1983), pp. 184–185, 197; and

D.J. Kealey, Cross-Cultural Effectiveness: A Study of Canadian Technical Advisors Overseas (Hull, Quebec: Canadian International Development Agency, 1990), p. 53–54.

At the same time, Church cautiously concluded in his extensive review of empirical research that effects of personality, interest, and value on performance in a foreign culture had not yet demonstrated strong relationships. See:

Church (1982), p. 557.

36. This advice parallels the now widely supported solution for the classic negotiator’s dilemma of needing to stand firm to achieve one’s goals and needing to make concessions to sustain movement toward an agreement: namely, “be firm but conciliatory,” firm with respect to goals, but conciliatory with respect to means. See:

Pruitt and Rubin (1986), p. 153.

37. Sometimes counterparts do not actually desire an agreement but some side effect. Thus their behavior may differ from that described here. See:

F.C. Ikle, How Nations Negotiate (Millwood, New York: Kraus Reprint, 1976), pp. 43–58.

38. See “Universal Look of Contempt,” New York Times, 22 December 1986, p. C3.

39. “Going International” film series, Copeland Griggs Productions, San Francisco.

40. A. Riding, Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of Mexicans (New York: Vintage Books, 1984), p. 487.

41. E.T. Hall, Beyond Culture (Garden City, New York: Anchor Press, 1977), p. 109.

42. The assertion concerning the predominance of one culture at a time was made by:

Lewin (1948).

43. A. Taylor, “Why GM Leads the Pack in Europe,” Fortune, 17 May 1993, p. 84.

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Comment (1)
Paul Dieter
Interesting post. People should be familiar with game theory and NLP. Negotiation becomes unconscious competence once its mastered.

Also check out my website... there are cool resources on negotiations and group dynamics. (