How to Overcome Cross Cultural Barriers in Business Negotiations

Henry Mcdowell 30 Apr 2019
How to Overcome Cross Cultural Barriers in Business Negotiations

Running a business and being successful at it often requires meeting people from all around the globe and doing business with them. Although you have the best possible intentions, it may happen that a business negotiation with someone from a different culture simply goes in the wrong direction and you fail to seal the deal. The reason behind it might be cultural differences.

Cross-cultural barriers in international business negotiation are common and you need to find a way to overcome them. If you don’t, you might be unable to move your business globally and continue running a successful company.

Take a look at some useful tips on how to move past cross cultural barriers and differences in business negotiations.

Do Your Homework

It goes without saying that you need to find a way to pay respect to the other party’s cultural habits and values. That means that you need to do your research and learn about their culture.

That includes learning about:

  • greetings
  • cultural values
  • rituals
  • taboos
  • expectations

By learning about the above-mentioned, you’ll know what to expect from the person you’re talking to, how to react, and how to respond to certain actions.

This will show the other person you’re aware of their culture and they’ll appreciate your effort. In addition, you’ll prevent yourself from doing anything offensive or upsetting for the other party.

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Don’t Overstep

When you’re getting prepared for negotiating across cultures, you’ll try to gather as much information as possible about the culture of the person you’re meeting.

However, keep in mind you’re not actually learning about the person. You’re learning about the stereotype.

This means that you need to be very careful about the source of information you’re relying on.

It’s best that you:

  • talk to a member of the same culture you’re friends with
  • talk to someone who’s had experience with that specific culture

The internet can be filled with stereotypical information such as “all Russians drink vodka”. However, if you prepare a bottle of vodka for a business meeting, the other person might get super-offended.

Therefore, make sure you’ve got all the right information, that actually make a difference in a conversation.

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Be Aware of Your Own Culture

If the person you’re negotiating with is equally as considerate as you, they’ve probably done their own research about your culture.

Try and understand what kind of an image they have about you as the member of a specific culture, and what is it that they expect from meeting you.

Then, try and either rebut the bad stereotypes or empower the good ones, and make sure the other party feels comfortable talking to you from the beginning.

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Find Common Grounds

Finally, to avoid cultural differences in negotiation, you can go ahead and try finding something you and the other person have in common.

Finding common grounds is almost like speaking the same language. It will help both you and the other party in terms of:

  • reducing stress

If you manage to find something in common, you’ll be able to feel less stressed out and more open towards the entire negotiation.

  • breaking the ice

Sharing ideas, customs, or elements of a culture will be a great ice-breaker for you and the other person. It’ll help you kick start the negotiation and seal the deal in no time.

  • feeling a connection

It’s important that you establish a connection with the other person. It may be hard when you don’t speak the same language, but finding something in common will help you do it.

Make sure you try out different thing until you hit the right note and engage in a meaningful conversation with the other party.

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It’s obvious that cultural differences can negatively affect international business negotiations. However, it doesn’t have to be the case. You do have to walk the extra mile and prepare thoroughly to be able to build a bridge between the two cultures. But, once you do it, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Make sure to use the advice we gave you and win all your international business negotiations.


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