Status and Status Anxiety (Part 1)

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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Today’s topic is about status, which is difficult to achieve, but even more difficult to maintain. This feeling of uncertainty related to these difficulties in negotiation gives rise to status anxiety, which can negatively affect the outcome of a meeting.

Here are some definitions that Alain De Botton (2004) provides with respect to status anxiety. 

Status 

– The position of a person in society; the word derives from the supine statum of the Latin verb stare. 

 – Strictly speaking, the term refers to the legal or professional position that a person has within a group, for example to his marital status (married) or to his rank (lieutenant). In a broad sense, it indicates the value and importance that this person assumes in the eyes of others: and this is the meaning that interests us most. 

– In the transition from one society to another, the categories that possess greater social prestige change … from 1776 until today (vague but indicative term…) status has been increasingly associated with economic success. 

– The effects of a high social position are gratifying; we have money, freedom, space, time, comfort, and, last, but not least, the feeling of being loved and esteemed when others invite and flatter us, laugh at our jokes (even those without humor) and show us deference and consideration. 

– For many people a high social position represents one of the most coveted assets, even if there are only a few that would be willing to openly confess it. 

Status anxiety 

– The fear – sometimes so nagging as to compromise entire existential phases – of not corresponding to the models of success proposed by society and, consequently, of losing all dignity and respect; The suffering induced by the fear of occupying very low rank in the social scale or of being downgraded. 

– This anxiety is caused by various factors such as periods of economic recession, redundancy, promotions, retirement, conversations with colleagues in the same sector; but also, by successful people who attract the interest of the press or by friends who have had better luck than us. It is often associated with feelings of envy, even if it is usually not confessedand can lead to unpleasant social consequences; therefore, the signs of this inner drama are scarcely evident and are generally limited to the thoughtful gaze, the stunted smile and the unwarranted silence with which we welcome news of other people’s successes. 

– If the place we occupy in the social ladder makes us feel concerned, it means that the consideration we have of ourselves largely depends on the idea that others have of us. Unlike a few exceptional characters, such as Socrates or Jesus, we need to know that the world respects us to be able to accept ourselves. 

– The fact that the status, already difficult to conquer, is even more difficult to maintain over the course of a lifetime is very unfortunate. If we exclude those societies in which status is established at birth – for example for reasons of noble descent – one’s status usually depends on what one manages to achieve in life. Moreover, there are many possible causes of failure, such as the lack of self-knowledge, macroeconomic factors and others’ cruelty. 

– Moreover, this failure originates humiliationdevastating awareness of not being able to convince the world of our worthwhich condemns us, on one hand, to consider with bitterness those who are successful, and, on the other hand, to be ashamed of ourselves. 

Thesis 

– Status anxiety can generate suffering. 

– The desire to reach a higher status can have, like all desires, its usefulness: it can lead us to value our talents, to improve ourselves, to avoid extravagant and harmful behaviours and to favour social aggregation based on a common system of values. But, like all desires, if exasperated, it can kill. 

– Understanding this anxious condition and talking about it can be the most effective therapeutic approach. 

Therefore, we should not be surprised if in a negotiation both sides try to assert their status and suffer from status anxiety. However, we must ask ourselves which mechanisms are useful for negotiation, and which ones are destructive. We must ask ourselves – and know how to recognize – others’ mechanisms of climbing to status and conquering power in negotiation, and the defensive counter-moves. We must consciously avoid making status anxiety predominate and strive to seek a negotiating solution that is useful for both parties. 

The main questions of intercultural negotiation are therefore: 

  • Starting from my interlocutor’s culture point of view, what are the avoidable statements that can hit his/her status? 
  • How can I re-balance the situation when my interlocutor puts himself in a superior position
  • How can I produce a positive image of myself and my company, without giving the feeling of superiority, consequently unleashing resentments and vengeful mechanisms? 
  • How does my interlocutor’s culture evaluate status; what confers status in that culture? 
  • How much of the negotiation time should you dedicate to negotiate status and how much should you dedicate to evaluate the topics for discussion? 
  • Besides the mutual acquaintance phase, when do status issues arise in the negotiation? While negotiating conditions? While fixing prices or logistics? in legal practices? Or in contract statements? 

To be continued…

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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The Intercultural Negotiators’ Training: an Intruduction to the ALM Business Method

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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To be able to negotiate effectively, knowing how to sell is not enough: it is necessary to develop transversal skills that favour the fluidity of communication and help us to avoid cultural barriers getting in our way. To do this we must undertake a path of deep personal training, without limiting ourselves to a superficial linguistic and cultural knowledge. So, let’s learn about one of the most effective training methods, the ALM method.

The ALM negotiation approach is characterized by: 

  1. action line flexibility, non-stereotyped negotiating strategy, creative strategy; 
  1. the negotiator’s strong emotional awareness; 
  1. the presence of strong negotiation preparation, communication training and simulation; 
  1. a holistic approach that pays attention to: 
  • a general knowledge, 
  • the know-how, but especially 
  • the negotiator’s knowledge of his/her role as a negotiator. 

This approach favours the negotiator’s/communicator’s growth, especially on the human level. 

Rather than identifying a single negotiating strategy, the ALM method invites us to ask ourselves which are the available “constellations of strategies” – using Tinsley’s term – and which of them may be more profitable. 

The ALM approach also invites us to always take into consideration the fact that misunderstandings may occur, leading us to conflicts, and to examine the inferred meaning of negotiation arguments, without automatically taking it for granted. 

The ALM method basically proposes an open, transparent and direct line of communication. However, we must remember that this method of communication cannot be applied automatically, because it cannot be considered a standard even in Western societies, where clarity and immediacy are apparently promoted (as in American society), and even less so in Eastern societies, where excessively explicit statements can lead to offenses and conflicts. 

For this reason, the intercultural negotiator must be aware of the “stress or shock “that comes from direct communication. He/she must also learn how to alleviate it, in case one decides to go for an open communication, such as for a constructive criticism or even for new communicative ways, that can be unusual for the other party.  

In this case, we are referring to the psychological pact between negotiators, in which both interlocutors, even before entering the negotiation, try to establish their own methods of communication, while sharing some negotiating rules. 

The success of intercultural negotiation therefore depends on: 

  • the ability to establish common rules, that must be followed during negotiation;  
  • the rules application consistency; 
  • the ability to change the rules when they are not practicable or effective. 

On an intercultural level, it is important to work on communication skills, and on the basic attitude of intercultural awareness. 

Working on our skills means increasing our awareness of communication tools, by understanding how to use them effectively. Working on attitudes means eliminating cultural rigidities, recognizing stereotypes and one-way approaches, knowing how to maintain a flexible and open mind, which allows us to move with awareness during a negotiation and in international contexts. 

To be continued…

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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Negotiation Cultures, Negotiation Time Frames and Timelines (part 2)

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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Today I would like to continue talking about negotiation cultures, negotiation timing and timelines, focusing on the importance for the negotiator to acquire the ability to manage and structure them, so as to overcome disagreements and misunderstandings.

The roots of disagreement are to be found: 

  1. in misunderstandings: when we do not understand the signals sent by the other interlocutor, decoding them incorrectly, or  
  1. in hidden ideological divergences. 

The roots of misunderstanding lie in the complexity of human information exchange, in the technical dimension of communication. 

People who share the same culture know how to move within their own cultural timeline; they are generally able to understand the subtle differences in the use of words, non-verbal signals, gestures, bodily expressions, while those who do not share this knowledge are often outsiders. 

Communication trainers and coaches’ work on intercultural communication therefore aims to bring out the invisible level of communication, both in the national (apparently intra-cultural) and in the international dimension. 

As we can see, there are many situations that can lead a person (A) to dialogue with another person (B) starting from different and inter-cultural bases. These different starting points, if not well understood by both interlocutors, generate a latent intercultural situation that can lead to relationship ineffectiveness (in the best cases) or to conflict (in the worst case). 

At the same time, we can find cultural similarities even at a distance of tens of thousands of kilometres – a stockbroker in Milan experiences languages and problems similar to those experienced by a colleague from Paris or Sydney. 

We must therefore wake up to reality and abandon appearances (diversity is not always related to kilometric and linguistic distances, but it is always linked to a different conception of the world). 

Ideally in any conversation or negotiation, the interlocutors must be aware of the cultural differences at stake. 

Both interlocutors must understand the intercultural dimension well (high degree of understanding). However, even if only one of them possessed a high degree of intercultural awareness, the chances of improving communication could increase. 

Furthermore, being aware of the intercultural dimension can be not only a positive factor for the relationship, but also a lever of power. The power of knowledge related to intercultural communication processes becomes a practical advantage of understanding “what is happening here and now” better than the other interlocutor, and therefore determines the power of awareness

Structuring Communication and Negotiation Time Frames 

Personal time can flow through a free fluctuation of experiences, or, conversely, within rigid and structured patterns. 

There are concrete problems deriving from: 

  1. structuring times that should be left fluctuating (e.g.: over-structuring a holiday plan that should be relaxing); 
  1. not structuring time frames that should be structured (e.g.: letting a decision-making meeting – that should produce a precise outcome within an exact deadline – take place in a chaotic communicative situation). 
The Efficient Use of Negotiation Communication Time Frames. 

Each interaction is based on inner times delimiting different frames. 

The economy of interpersonal communication can bring out dysfunctions in the communication time management. 

During a negotiation, the two interlocutors do not always share communication time frames, which creates problems with efficiency and effectiveness. 

In professional meetings and critical meetings (e.g., career negotiation, trade negotiation, etc.), it is necessary to set up an efficient and effective format, to explicitly express it and share it (you can set up and negotiate the format, or else you have to endure it). 

To conclude, effective negotiation communication requires: 

  • the ability to structure negotiation times, identifying the phases through which one intends to proceed; 
  • the ability to introduce in the negotiation time structure, a structure that is adequate to our goals and a degree of adaptation to the counterpart’s culture. 
"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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For further information see:

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Conversational Moves: when Creating a Dialogue between Companies becomes Difficult

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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In the next lines we are going to observe how complex the dialogue between companies may be and how it is possible to avoid conflicts and to reach success during a negotiation by paying attention to our own conversational moves and to those used by the interlocutor.

The dialogue between companies is full of communication difficulties that arise daily. We can look at them from a concrete perspective by observing the following case of micro-dialogue between C – a consultant – and I – an entrepreneur – who are at I’s company one morning at the request of I:

C1: So, you were telling me that you would like to train your sales network team?

I1: Yes, I would like to do some training.

C2: Which problems would you like to solve? What are the main issues, that sellers are facing now?

I2: Well, you know, they are well trained people … with experience … highly qualified people…

C3: Um, well, have you already decided on the time frame in which you would like to do the training?

I3: Well, I think it could be done in a couple of days, right? Or we can use some afternoons. How many hours do you think it would take?

C4: Well, perhaps we should try to understand first what kind of approach we should use for this training. Are you more interested in a customized training on human resources, made only for you, or do you prefer having your sales team participate in a general course, in which your employees are mixed with other participants?

I4: Well, what’s the difference?

C5: Well, the customized training is certainly different.

I5: How many sales courses have you given to companies in our sector?

C6: Look, we’ve done lots of courses, but I don’t think it matters in which sector, because a sales training is a communication training and the topics that we are going to cover are related to communication psychology. Focusing on the type of product that is being sold isn’t really that significant.

I6: But, you know, I don’t want a very theoretical course. I need something applied to my field, do you have a list of your references?

Each passage of this conversation can be analysed as a set of conversational moves. Each move brings an enormous amount of meanings and signification systems.

In this conversation, C focuses on analysing the client’s needs, while I implements a conversational misdirection that shifts the focus to C’s curriculum, and distracts him from I’s training needs. C therefore tries to bring the dialogue back to the approach that must be given to the course, while I – in move I6 – continues in its manoeuvres to shift the conversation from the training needs of its sales network team to the analysis of the consultant’s CV.

Going on with the dialogue, the underlying cultural divergences will emerge with greater force, until reaching one of the possible conclusions: an open conflict of cultures, a stalemate, or an agreement.

However, without “dismantling” the communication (in this case by recognizing the cultural and strategic value of each move) the outcome will be a probable failure.

Intercultural negotiation therefore requires great attention to conversational moves, rather than to great negotiation strategies that can fail if badly applied. The negotiation between companies can be considered the real theatre of communication, which is the negotiation conversation.

Once again, we want to highlight how the negotiation success, or rather the probability of success, can only be increased by an adequate preparation on intercultural communication, which includes both the analysis of the mechanisms of effective communication, and its cross-cultural adaptation.

Every rule must be adapted to the context in which it is applied (space, time, place, situation, etc.) and from which it arose. Cultural changes today are so rapid that the new real skill do not come from last-minute behavioural rules, but from a wider competence of the whole communication process and from the ability to adapt our own resources case by case.

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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For further information see:

Intercultural Conversation Management Techniques

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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Let’s continue with the conversation analysis. In this article we will focus on various aspects of intercultural conversation and its management, because a good negotiator must always have the situation in check, without leaving even the smallest conversational detail to chance.

Rules of Courtesy and Respect for Roles

Intercultural communication, both on a diplomatic and on a business level, requires us to pay a particular attention to rules of courtesy, to the respect for roles and to the recognition of others’ identities.

On an interpersonal perspective, western urban cultures tend to “reduce distances” and to treat people as equals. From an anthropological point of view, these cultures are defined as low-context cultures. Many business and diplomatic cultures, however, are generally high-context cultures; respecting distances and roles, while mantaining boundaries until the other party offers permission to move to a more friendly and less formal level, is very important.

Moreover, in high-context cultures more space is given to allusion, rather than to direct affirmations, as occurs in low-context cultures, which are more informal. In addition to that, high-context cultures use more parables, proverbs, understatements and antiphrases (negative statements), while low-context cultures prefer to create direct relationships, using high tones, overstatements, positive and explicit expressions.

Some general rules of intercultural negotiation are therefore dictated by common sense, while others must be acquired by people who are informed about the local culture. The basic rules of courtesy are:

  • asking informed individuals how people want to be called
  • asking people directly how they want to be called (in the absence of informants);
  • avoiding nicknames or avoiding using first names without the direct permission of the subject;
  • using titles such as “Mr.” or “Miss.”, or other courtesy titles, especially with older interlocutors;
  • respecting roles (eg: President, Director, etc.) even with younger people who hold institutional roles;
  • avoiding interrupting.
Rules of Deference and Demeanor

The rules of deference and demeanor are expressed both verbally and through non-verbal communication – for example by bowing a bit while shaking hands – generally avoiding excessive manifestations. In any case, it is essencial to rember to inquire about which behaviors are normal and which are rather offensive in the other culture.

Taking cultural precepts for granted, without knowing how to understand the situation, can easily produce mistakes and misunderstandings. The rules of courtesy are therefore to be evaluated with extreme attention to the context.

The axes that connect two subjects engaged in conversation are called conversation lines.

  • To interrupt two people talking means breaking their imaginary line of conversation.
  • To let another person take the turn means establishing a line of conversation between yourself and that other person.
  • To give two people something to compare means establishing a line of conversation between those two subjects.

The lines of conversation can be both evident (through the verbal system) and subtly disguised (through the non-verbal system, like signals, gestures and nods).

Turn-taking Management

Speaking turns management mechanisms are extremely complex, although practiced by everyone every day.

The information flow that comes from the interlocutors is extremely valuable, and requires everyone to abandon a “strategy that floods information“, typical of aggressive sales, moving towards a listening strategy.

The turn-taking management training develops the negotiator’s skills in:

  • recognizing turn-taking management mechanisms;
  • knowing how to enter the conversation while respecting rules;
  • identifying moments and strategies, that can help you enter and leave the conversation;
  • creating adequate repair moves, while facing moves that can be perceived as offensive;
  • applying a conversational leadership, that consists in taking your turn consciously by becoming a “turn-taking” manager.
Content Management

The turn-taking concept mainly concerns the “person who’s talking”, while the content management mainly regards “the topic of conversation”.

First of all, we have to distinguish the skills of topic setting (fixing conversational topics), from those of topic shifting. Both strategies are part of what we call “content management conversation skills“.

Topic shifting and content management skills include:

  • the ability to recognize “what we are talking about”: details, visions, aspirations, requests, offers, datas, emotions.
  • the ability to create different phases in the conversation, for example by knowing how to produce an adequate small talk, or how to warm up the conversational atmosphere; or by knowing how to distinguish between the opening phase, used for gathering information, and the closing phase, when a conclusion is reached;
  • the ability to move the negotiation along desired or predetermined axes of content, following an agenda or a mental scheme;
  • the ability to change the conversational contents, based on what emerges during the interaction (contextual changes, situational adaptations, etc.).

Conversation re-focusing is a “hard” variant of content management and topic-shifting techniques. Re-centering consists of bringing the conversation back to a topic that the counterpart is not considering, or wants to avoid, or simply cannot grasp.

The act of re-focusing can be preceded and followed by appropriate repair moves (repair, apology, anticipation, etc.). In extreme cases, the act of re-centering can also take place without resorting to moves of repair, thus generating a pre-conflict situation that forces the counterpart to choose whether to accept a role of conversational submission or not, shifting to an open conflict.

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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