In negotiating persuasion “in the field,” we may find different attitudes towards the same proposal. Imagine making a presentation with persuasive intent to propose a training course to a firm. Entrepreneur A might be enthusiastic about a staff training project, while entrepreneur B might consider it a waste of time. The first step, then, is to understand how the item (the proposal) sits along the possible latitude (from unconditional acceptance to outright rejection, with all the possible nuances in between). Every negotiator can benefit from practicing both (1) the latitude survey, and (2) the next step, consisting of analyzing the underlying motivations that place an item (a specific proposal) along a particular point on the latitude (e.g., extreme rejection, unconditional acceptance, or acceptance with reservations, and other possibilities). Having acknowledged the position along the continuum, it is appropriate to understand the reason for that placement. Any persuasive activity will in fact have to confront the motives that determine that position.
Roles • Analyst: has the task of bringing out the picture • Interviewee: must contribute to the exploration that the analyst will attempt, in a spirit of openness Steps • The analyst must come up with a fairly long list of products, services, and buying ideas, and note how they rank along the continuum. • Second step: bring out the reasons for this placement, especially in reference to the most extreme positions. • Use the following survey sheet:
Acceptance Latitude Survey Sheet Place proposed products along the continuum, based on the respondent’s reactions to the product. Question: “would you buy a ……” (follows proposal of a product or service, even a strange or unusual one). Explore the motive underlying the evaluation and related motives. You would purchase a: ……
And the reaction was.Assign a score from -100 (extreme disgust) to + 100 (absolute unconditional adherence)
In-depth analysis of choices: use • probing (did I get that right? why, what motivation leads you to.?); • associative techniques (what do you associate with…?); • the belief/evaluation model: have the subject say, “I believe that ………..” (subject’s belief) and “I think this is ………” (subject’s evaluation of the belief); • For the most positive and most negative points: in-depth analysis of motivations.
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.
– 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 personhas 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 peoplea 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.
– 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 a 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 confessed, and 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 usto 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 whatone 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 humiliation, a devastating awareness of not being able to convince the world of our worth, which condemns us,on one hand, to consider with bitterness those who are successful, and, on the other hand, to be ashamed of ourselves.
– 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 thisanxious 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?
Today’s article will be about Germany and its immigration history, past and present. By observing what happened during the last 70 years, we will try to understand if people are really able to learn from their mistakes.
Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country at the intersection of Central and Western Europe, situated between the Baltic and North seas to the north, and the Alps to the south; covering an area of 357,022 square kilometres, with a population of over 83 million within its 16 constituent states.
Germany is a great power with a strong economy. As a global leader in several industrial, scientific and technological sectors, it is both the world’s third-largest exporter and importer of goods. As a developed country, which ranks very high on the Human Development Index, it offers social security and a universal health care system, environmental protections, and a tuition-free university education. (1)
But what about immigration?
In 2011, Germany had 80.3 million residents. Of those residents, 15.96 million – almost 19% of the entire population – had a migration background.
Incessant wars, religious conflicts, famines, political grievances and a lack of prospects forced many people to leave Germany over the centuries. The land’s relative population loss was enormous. An estimated six million emigrants left Germany between 1820 and 1920. The tide of emigration only began to ebb, beginning in 1890, as the industrial era brought economic success to the German Empire. From that point on, the number of individuals immigrating to Germany surpassed the number of Germans who left. Foreign laborers found employment, above all, in the booming centres of the coal and steel industries.
During the national socialist dictatorship the camps and the daily sight of forced laborers were simply part of everyday life for the local population.
The years after 1945 were shaped by people in motion as well. The forced mobility of diverse groups of people (refugees, people expelled from their homes through territorial exchange and other so-called displaced persons) altered the structure of the German population, giving rise to tensions and conflicts with local residents. The number of refugees and expellees only first began to decline at the end of the 1940s. Simultaneously, the growing demand for labour soon outstripped the capacity of the labour force.
In order to offset labour shortages, the federal government turned to a traditional model of recruiting and temporarily employing foreign workers, who took on jobs that German laborers considered unattractive. After the 1966-7 economic crisis, the immigration process decelerated until the early 1990s, when the numbers rapidly grew again and are continuing to grow even now. (2)
As a result of immigration, people with different cultures and traditions and greater religious diversity are now living together.
Attitudes about successful coexistence in an immigration society differ significantly across generations: the younger the person, the less the wish for adaptation. While 66 percent of the population over 70 years of age express the opinion that immigrants should culturally adapt, this proportion gradually declines among younger groups, to 22 percent among respondents under 25 years of age. (3)
There are still many prejudices and stereotypes about foreigners, but, in the end, the truth is that Germany profits from the immigrants. They boost the economy, contribute towards the welfare system and help reduce the lack of professionals. (2)
This doesn’t happen to Germany alone: immigration remains a profitable asset for all countries, even though many people haven’t understood that yet, and continue to regard this phenomenon as a destructive cancer.
To those who think that I can only say that if you look at your family tree and go back to centuries, you will surely find that your ancestors migrated from a place to another. The fact is that we are all children of migrations and we must never forget it.
In this article I will examine 2 important topics of intercultural negotiation communication: the first concerns the personal image management, while the second one is related to the superiority-inferiority conflict.
In every negotiation comparing respective statuses becomes inevitable. However, statuses are considered intra-cultural and not cross-cultural elements. We cannot assume that a person belonging to an “other” culture recognizes a status that comes from an unknown system.
Let’s observe this real dialogue between two colleagues at a restaurant, the first is Italian and the second one is American.
US negotiator: “In America my family is in the upper-middle class, we have a thousand square meter apartment in New York, but my neighbours built a mezzanine, doubling the airspace, if business goes well next season I can enter the upper class, and build a mezzanine too. My children have two PlayStations each, and I’m giving them a good education: for each hour of study I multiply x 2 their possibility of using the PlayStation, so if they study an hour I let them use the PlayStation for 2 hours, if they study 15 minutes I let them use it for only half an hour, timed.”
Italian’s response: “But do you listen to your children or do you time them?” (unspoken thought: you can also have a mezzanine of a square kilometre, but for me you are always an asshole)
We are not interested here in discussing who is wrong and if someone is wrong, but it is clear that the American interlocutor is exposing a particular image of himself. He is expressing a “face” and he is indirectly exposing which are the status rules he believes in, and his convictions on the most appropriate pedagogical methods. For this person having a mezzanine and two PlayStations is an indicator of status. It is also clear that the Italian interlocutor does not accept these rules and that he measures personal value differently.
A more or less conscious management of one’s “social face” is part of every negotiation. However, on an intercultural level, sending out unconscious messages and producing damages during negotiations can be very easy.
Principle 20 – Managing one’s own status and the interlocutor’s status; “face” games and intercultural impressions management
The success of intercultural negotiation depends on:
the ability to create an adequate status perception within the interlocutor’s judgment system;
the ability to create positive impressions (identity management and impression management);
the ability to acquire status and “face” without resorting to undue attack mechanisms, that can damage others’ “faces” (“face” aggression or personal image reduction, absolute avoidance of top-down approaches);
Alain de Botton reports this passage which shows us how even at the highest diplomatic and negotiating levels one can be very ignorant of what transversal messages are being emitted and of the degree of damage that can be produced by knowingly or not knowingly placing oneself in a top-down position.
In July 1959, US Vice President Richard Nixon went to Moscow to inaugurate an exhibition dedicated to his country’s technological and material innovations. The main attraction was a life-size copy of the house of the average worker, with carpet, TV in the living room, two bathrooms, central heating and a kitchen equipped with a washing machine, a dryer and a refrigerator.
During various press services, the Soviet press, somewhat irritated, declared that no American worker could have lived in such a luxurious house – ironically named “Taj Mahal” by Soviets – and defined it a means of propaganda.
Khrushchev maintained a rather sceptical attitude when he accompanied Nixon to the exhibition. As he observed the kitchen of the house in question, the Soviet leader pointed to an electric juicer and said that no sane person would ever think of buying certain “stupid items”. “Anything that can help a woman doing her work is useful,” Nixon replied. “We do not consider women as workers, as you do in the capitalist system,” Khrushchev retorted angrily.
Later that evening, Nixon was invited to give a speech at the Soviet television and used the occasion to illustrate the benefits of the American way of life. Cunningly, he did not begin to speak of democracy and human rights, but of money and material progress. He explained that, thanks to entrepreneurship and industrial activity, in a few centuries Western countries had managed to overcome poverty and famine, which were widespread until the mid-eighteenth century and still present in many areas of the world. Americans owned fifty-six million televisions and one hundred and fifty-three million radios according to what Nixon reported to Soviet viewers, many of whom did not even have a private bathroom or a kettle for making tea. About thirty-one million Americans lived in their own home, and an average family was able to buy nine clothes and fourteen pairs of shoes a year. In the United States, you could buy a house by choosing from a thousand different architectural styles, and o certain houses were often larger than a television studio. At that point Khrushchev, sitting next to Nixon and increasingly irritated, clenched his fists and exclaimed “Net, Net! “, while apparently adding in an undertone ” Eb ’tvoju babusku” (Go fuck your grandmother).
What clearly emerges from this passage is the (perhaps) unwitting offense to poverty that Nixon transfers to Russian people, placing himself in a top-down position, superior position vs. lower position.
For too many times, negotiators do not realize that they are performing an “abuse of dominant position” (displaying excessive superiority that damages others) or practicing a “presumption of dominance” (thinking of oneself in superior terms).
Communication reveals self- conceptions and relationship conceptions even though the participants do not want to reveal them.
Let’s see another example and observe some passages of this email:
Two colleagues and I are close to retirement and after an intense activity as top managers in various multinationals we decided to create an external company. I ask you to be our consultant and to provide us with your valuable advices to help us build a successful company. Do your best to check if you can come to advise us in Turin. Anyway, send me a commercial offer because I must show it to my partners for approval. Please send me also your CV. I will present it to my two partners, so as to persuade them to approve your advice. This consultancy intervention must be done within January 2005.
Thank you in advance for your help.
This message intercultural problem is of psycholinguistic type and it concerns the use of the imperative and the enormous quantity of presuppositions present.
Let’s look at some implicit assumptions linked to this message:
some people believe that a commercial offer can be made without having analysed the problem and the necessary intervention times;
Others think that the recipient will send his CV to someone he/she does not know, without being informed on how and for what purposes this CV will be used (it takes only a few seconds to write a writing a reason on an email, but the real motives can be different);
There is also the assumption that the customer can dictate times and that it is the recipient, and not the writer, who must make the trip;
It is taken for granted that the recipient wants to work for the sender and that he approves intentions and projects.
The apparently courteous message reveals a culture that is not exactly courteous.
In the Italian culture being in the “buyer” position is a strength and working for years in a multinational company makes the buyer acquire a strongest attitude of strength and superiority.
The sender actually expresses an aggressive multinational culture, which is based on the belief that a multinational can “rule the world”, a way of being consequently absorbed by its managerial education. However, the Italian culture is not unique, and we cannot think that the prototype of the multinational’s dominance over a consultant, or of a buyer over a possible seller, is accepted by everyone.
The ALM method culture believes that there must be a certain degree of values commonality for a project to start.
We must always consider that our culture is not automatically the culture of others. The right strategy is therefore to avoid putting the counterpart in conditions of presumed inferiority or to assign automatic superiority.
In the following article I would like to conclude the topic of negotiation communication training, by listing, in a more detailed way, the interpersonal communicative abilities, explaining the importance of culture shock and self-awareness acquisition.
Code Switching: the negotiator must manage the change of communication codes (linguistic code and non-verbal code), in order to adapt to the interlocutor. Making your interlocutor understand you requires an active effort of adaptation, a willingness to change your repertoire and to get closer to other people. Whoever imposes a one-way adaptation effort on the interlocutor (one-way adaptation) and does not think about others understanding him/her, automatically creates barriers to communication.
Topic Shifting: the change of subject. The negotiator must understand which techniques need to be adopted to slip from unproductive conversations, to get away from dangerous or useless topics, to avoid touching critical points of other cultures, creating offense, resentment or stiffening. These skills – like other abilities – are useful in every communicative context, such as in a communication between friends, colleagues, companies, as well as in diplomatic communication.
Turn Taking: conversational turns management. There are certain cultures that accept others to interfere in their speech, and others in which the respect for speaking turns is essential. Turn taking includes conversational turns management skills, turn taking abilities, turn defence skills, turn transfer abilities, the capability of open and close conversational lines, etc. All these techniques need to be refined for both intra- and inter-cultural communication.
Self-monitoring: the ability to self-analyse, to understand how we are communicating (which style we are using), to recognize internal emotional states, one’s own tiredness, or frustration, or joy, expectation or disgust, knowing how to recognize those inner emotions that animate us during conversation or negotiation.
Others-monitoring: the ability to analyse and decode the inner emotional states of our interlocutors, to recognize his/her state of fatigue, energy, euphoria, dejection, etc., to know how to perceive the participants mutual influences, to grasp the power relations in the counterpart groups and to understand the degree of interest in our proposals and the right moment for closing.
Empathy: the ability to understand others’ points of view, from within their value systems and cultural contexts and to understand the value of their communicative moves based on the culture that generates them.
Linguistic Competence: the ability to use language, choice of words and repertoires, showing a deep knowledge of the language.
Paralinguistic Competence: the ability to use and strategically manage the non-verbal elements of speech, such as tones, pauses, silences, etc.
Kinesic Competence: the ability to communicate through body movements (body language). Movements management can be one of the strongest traps in intercultural communication, where some cultures – such as the Italian one – normally use broad body movements and gesticulations, while others – such as oriental cultures- use a greater demeanour, while retaining their body expressions.
Proxemic Competence: the ability to communicate through space and personal distances management. For example, Latin and Arab cultures accept and consider closer interpersonal distances normal, while northern European cultures don’t.
Socio-environmental Decoding Competence: the ability to interpret and understand “what is happening here” in relation to what is taking place during the conversation or the interaction. The negotiator must know how to recognize a conflict within the members of the counterpart group (intra-group conflict) and how to grasp the different positions, the trajectories of approach and relaxation, the different roles assumed and the moves of the interlocutors.
Both intra-cultural and intercultural negotiators need to be prepared for Reality Shock (or culture shock). Reality Shock can arise from the sudden realization that:
others don’t follow our rules;
others have different background values;
others don’t have the same goals as we do;
others do not behave like us, or even like we want them to behave;
some negotiators are in bad faith and dishonest: they do not seek a win-win approach, but only a personal advantage;
even with the greatest amount of goodwill, some negotiations escape comprehensibility and observable behaviours do not fit into rational logic.
The difference between an experienced negotiator and an apprentice negotiator is the degree of damage that reality shock does: low or zero for the expert, devastating for the apprentice.
The clash with reality can cause a shock, which can be followed by:
a positive process, reached thanks to the analysis of diversity, the acceptance of what can be accepted (without running into the extremes of radical unconditional acceptance), that leads the negotiator to improve his/her own cultural knowledge; or…
a negative process, caused by a fall of the emotional state, a rejection of reality that leads the negotiator to take refuge in his/her own cultural arena. The result, in this case, is often a withdrawal.
In order to activate a positive process of growth, and not a negative process of involution, it is necessary to work on our self-awareness (“Knowing how to Be”) of negotiation, through:
Cognitive Learning & Knowledge Acquisition: learning the contents that characterize the culture with which we want to interact.
Cognitive Restructuring: transforming our perception of the communicative act itself from an anxiogenic element to a source of positive energy. This practice requires the identification of negative self-statements (e.g.: “it will definitely go wrong”, “I am unsuitable”, “I will not succeed”, etc.), that must be replaced by positive self-statements, (e.g.: “let’s see if we have the right conditions for doing business”,” let’s go and compare our mutual positions without fear”, or even” let’s help the customer understand how we think”). The analysis of self-statements therefore consists in working on how we “enter” the negotiation, on what animates us.
Behavioural Learning & Communication Skills Acquisition: learning the skills necessary to “perform” or achieve a specific behavioural or communicative goal, by using dramaturgical and expressive techniques and relational dynamics.
Emotional Control Skills: developing some necessary emotions management skills, with which one can direct his/her own emotional energies in positive directions, recognize and remove negotiation stress, “recharge his/her batteries” and manage personal times, in order to take part in a negotiation in optimal psychophysical conditions.
Today I would like to talk about the cultural differences that can be found in the Chinese area, starting with a brief explanation of China’s History.
China is one of the biggest countries of the world and the most populated one. Understanding its history is very important to understand the global development, because some of the most decisive discoveries and inventions took place precisely in this area (e.g.: paper, printing, gunpowder, compass, etc.)
One of the most important elements of Chinese history is the Dynasties. Emperors and Empresses from the same bloodline ruled China from 150 BCE to 1911 CE. When a dynasty was overthrown, a new one would take its place or China would be divided into different states. These Dynasties were held together by one of the most influential ideas of though, known as Confucianism. (1)
Confucianism was developed in China by Master Kong in 551-479 BC, who was given the name Confucius by Jesuit missionaries who were visiting there. However, the fundamental principles of Confucianism began before his birth, during the Zhou Dynasty.
At that time, the ideas of respect and the well-being of others were prevalent, but there was also an emphasis on spiritual matters – specifically, the goodness of the divine and the mandate to rule given to those in power. These ideas were meant to unite the people, create stability and prevent rebellion.
Confucius believed his philosophy was also a route toward a civil society. However, he shifted attention away from ruling authorities, the divine or one’s future after death, focusing instead on the importance of daily life and human interactions. This new, refined version of the philosophy did not completely take root until the next dynasty, the Han (140-87 BC). The foundation of Confucianism is an appreciation for one’s character and the well-being of others.
This doctrine has a complete system of moral, social, political, and religious thought, and has had a large influence on the history of Chinese civilization. (2)
In 1911, China overthrew the Qing Dynasty to form a democracy, however in 1916 the government fell apart. This caused a great chaos leading to China being divided up into several smaller states. Eventually, two major parties tried to reunify them: the Nationalist party, that sought for democracy, and the Communist party lead by Mao Zedong, that took control of the country after the 1949 revolution.
Mao Zedong lead multiple cultural and industrial revolutions with varying degrees of success, turning this country into a mix of Communism and Capitalism. (3)
Even though it recently got reunited, china’s cultural differences still live. Due to the many barbaric invasions that got different ethnic groups mixed up, to the different geographical features that can be found in this vast land, to constant political and economic divisions and reunifications, etc. China possesses an incredible variety of cultures.
For example China legally recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups and 292 living languages. All these languages could communicate thanks to Chinese characters, that could be well understood all over the country.
Concerning religion, the government of the People’s Republic of China officially espouses state atheism, but over the millennia, Chinese civilization has been influenced by various religious movements, such as Taoism and Buddhism, that were combined with the doctrine of Confucianism.
Diversity can be found also in Chinese cusine. In China we have the “Eight Major Cuisines”, including Sichuan, Cantonese, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian, Hunan, Anhui, and Zhejiang cuisines. All of them are featured by the precise skills of shaping, heating, colorway and flavoring. Generally, China’s staple food is rice in the south, wheat-based breads and noodles in the north. Furthermore, southern cuisine, due to the area’s proximity to the ocean and milder climate, has a wide variety of seafood and vegetables, that the northern cusine do not possess. (4)
There are many other cultural differences that can be mentioned, but there is not enough space to list them all.
So, to conclude, China is an example that cultural differences do not exist only among different countries, but also inside one country. To negotiate effectively, we must be aware that even our closest neighbour, culturally speaking, can be the exact opposite of us, even though we both share the same place of origin.
In the following article I will go on explaining the basic features of the ALM business method, listing the most important communication training techniques and communication skills that every negotiator would acquire with it.
Communication trainings and simulations are essential to help us move from theory to practice. In the communication training of the ALM method:
We use an active training, paying particular attention to experiential assimilation and to active participation; moments of conceptual and theoretical reflection are useless if not concretely experienced.
the theory is connected to personal cognitive schemes: we aim to introduce new concepts and skills and to modify the underlying belief systems. A pure academic expression of concepts may not be enough to make people change;
There is a transition from cognitive schemes to behavioural and linguistic schemes: each of us must be ready to use concepts, beliefs and attitudes, by activating them without resorting to memory, thus avoiding long cognitive elaborations. Just as the footballer does not need to think about how the femur moves to shot a penalty kick, the negotiator must develop communicative automatisms connected to an inner communicative know-how.
The success of communication is therefore positively related to:
the available communicative repertoire: behavioural and communicative responses wideness and variety, stylistic repertoires wideness and variety;
the degree of “readiness” (easy accessibility) with which communication skills and relational moves can be used. This way, they become motor and linguistic schemes ready for activation and not mere mental traces to be reworked when necessary.
The final aim of this method is to obtain a high level of preparation on communication, which can help the negotiator to be ready to negotiate during most of the negotiation situations that may arise.
Communication training is divided into two areas:
transversal competence: the basic area (ground-level) where the main skills necessary in each negotiation are examined, and
situational competence, in which individual contexts necessities and specific interlocutors’ needs are analysed.
The success of intercultural communication depends on two types of communication skills:
The first is transversal to cultures and consists of general rules of effective communication that apply in any cultural context and it represents the basic communicative competence (ground-level expertise);
The second one is more specific and regards the cultural and situational target. In fact, there is an analysis of cultural traits and communicative strategies are based on the culture with which one must interact.
The main interpersonal communication skills covered (ground-level expertise) are:
code switching: ability to change codes, linguistic styles and linguistic registers;
topic shifting: ability to manage a change of topic and a conversation re-centering;
turn taking: ability to manage conversational turns;
self-monitoring: ability to self-analyse;
others-monitoring: ability to analyse and decode one’s interlocutor’s phases;
empathy: ability to understand others’ point of view and to see the world from within their value system;
verbal linguistic competence: ability to use language, choosing words and repertoires correctly;
paralinguistic competence: ability to use the non-verbal elements of speech, pauses, tones, accents, underlining, emphasis;
kinesics competence: ability to communicate through body movements (body language);
proxemic competence: ability to communicate through space management and personal distances;
socio-environmental competence: ability to interpret and understand “what is happening here”, in relation to the frames that come to life in the interaction.
In order to work on these skills, it is necessary to apply active training techniques. A special publication of the ALM method is dedicated to this topic.
Active training techniques mainly use actions, experimentations and behavioural researches, including elements such as:
breathing techniques and voice use;
techniques used for unlocking conversational repertoires;
stage space use and body language;
simulations and business games;
theatrical and negotiating improvisation;
analysis of the dramatic structure of the text, analysis of critical incidents and psychodramas;
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:
action line flexibility, non-stereotyped negotiating strategy, creative strategy;
the negotiator’s strong emotional awareness;
the presence of strong negotiation preparation, communication training and simulation;
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.
Today I would like to talk about USA and China relations, starting from their first official encounter, up to their recent diplomatic problems, comparing them to see why they can be called “superpowers”.
The first representatives of the Unites States visited China in 1784. A ship called the Empress of China arrived in Guangzhou (Canton) in August. The vessel’s supercargo, Samuel Shaw, had been appointed as an unofficial consul by the U.S. Congress, but he did not make contact with Chinese officials or gain diplomatic recognition for the United States. Since the 1760s all trade with Western nations had been conducted at Guangzhou through a set group of Chinese merchants with official licenses to trade. Some residents of the American colonies had engaged in the China trade before this time, but this journey marked the new nation’s entrance into the lucrative China trade in tea, porcelain, and silk. (1)
From that moment onward USA gradually started its diplomatic and trade relations with China: sometimes they were successful and both countries gained money, obtained refined and exotic products and learned from each other, but sometimes they were not, leading them to misunderstandings, conflicts and wars.
Nowadays this complicated relationship hasn’t changed much, meaning that successes and failures continuously interchange.
Let’s look for example at what happened 3 years ago when the Trump administration announced sweeping tariffs on Chinese imports, worth at least $50 billion, in response to what the White House alleged was Chinese theft of U.S. technology and intellectual property. (2)
Furthermore, in that same year U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech marking the clearest articulation yet of the Trump administration’s policy toward China and a significant hardening of the United States’ position. Pence said the United States would prioritize competition over cooperation by using tariffs to combat “economic aggression.” He also accused China of stealing American intellectual property and interfering in U.S. elections.
Facing these accusations China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced Pence’s speech as “groundless accusations” and warned that such actions could harm U.S.-China ties.
The trade war intensified until January 2020, when president Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed an agreement, that relaxed some U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports and committed China to buying an additional $200 billion worth of American goods, including agricultural products and cars, over two years. China also pledged to enforce intellectual property protections. (3)
And then, again, we all well witnessed the Covid-19 Crisis and we are still witnessing its consequences.
The fact that these countries’ diplomatic relations are evolving nowadays, indicates that both of them have reached a high level of economic, financial and political power, that force them to compete.
In other words, both of them are superpowers.
But what is a superpower?
As Wikipedia well explains:
“a superpower is a state with a dominant position characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined means of economic, military, technological and cultural strength as well as diplomatic and soft power influence”. (4)
And what makes them world superpowers?
Let’s start from the US.
United States have a huge lead by the most important measures of national power. It is the wealthiest country with the greatest military capability. Furthermore, it has the best long-term economic growth prospects. Economists have shown that long-run growth depends on a country’s geography, demography, and political institutions and the United States have an edge in all three categories.
Demographically, America is the only nation that is simultaneously big, young, and highly educated. The U.S. workforce is the third largest, second youngest, most educated in years of schooling, and most productive among the major powers. (5)
And what about China?
China, home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, is a country of superlatives. Forty years of economic growth, at an average of nearly 10% a year, has transformed the country into a global leader in technology and manufacturing.
Its economy is now second only in size to the United States – larger if trade is taken into account – and it is home to six of the world’s megacities.
Despite its trade dispute with the US, China enjoyed first-quarter growth of 6.4% this year, more than double the UN’s forecast for the rest of the world, and life expectancy has risen to 75 for men and 78 for women, according to the World Health Organisation. (6)
Obviously, there are not only positive aspects, but also negative.
USA, as well as China, must fight against corruption and inequalities.
In USA, in the last few years, poverty has increased and democracy has been weakened by corrupted powers. China, on the other hand, still remains a dictatorship: people must endure censorships and ethnic and religious minorities still suffer repressions from the government. China’s rapid growth made it the world’s biggest producer of CO2, damaging its citizens health.
I could go on forever talking about their pros and cons, but I must come to a conclusion.
There are no more powerful countries than China and USA today, and we can grasp their power by looking at their complex economic and political relations, made of failures and successes. One question remains: what will the future superpower be?
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:
in misunderstandings: when we do not understand the signals sent by the other interlocutor, decoding them incorrectly, or
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:
structuring times that should be left fluctuating (e.g.: over-structuring a holiday plan that should be relaxing);
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.