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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Negotiation Cultures, Negotiation Time Frames and Timelines (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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The temporal dimension and the perception that each of us has of communicative time vary on a cultural basis. For this reason it is important to carefully analyse this issue and learn how to use negotiation timelines efficiently.

Negotiation is a sequence of communication activities, in which the participants commit themselves to achieve a result, only possible thanks to a form of agreement between the parties. Finding an agreement that satisfies them both, as well as understanding each other well, are therefore obvious factors of success, that take up communication time. 

Each negotiation can be considered intercultural when the participants come from different cultures, have different experiences or use different languages. 

Diversity introduces large margins of error and misunderstanding into the negotiation: any message that works in one’s own culture risks being misunderstood in other cultures. One of the dimensions of greatest cultural variability is the “sense of time” and the time management, two important factors that are also part of the negotiation timing

Each culture has its own “negotiation times” and latent negotiation practices. For Americans (generalizing a lot) what matters is the business, so, a company that was born recently, and therefore young, can be treated as a company that has existed for a century. But this culture also has other manifestations. Since what matters is the content and merit, in the US a trained university student can present his/her research or paper at a conference, alongside academics, if the work is worth it. His paper would initially be selected without even knowing who the author is (the “blind review” method). 

In Italy, on the other hand, it is important to first understand who you are dealing with (history analysis, contextualization research, network research), who this person’s “friends” or “enemies” are, who is his/her sponsor, where he/she comes from. A young “non-sponsored” student won’t be able to present his/her research in a conference beyond his/her value. Time has different values and structures. 

So, for an Italian negotiator it may be necessary to focus on the story of whoever is in front of him/her, evaluate his/her credibility, and test him/her. He/she would take small steps, moving gradually closer, before concluding something big. 

The US negotiator, on the other hand, will proceed with the subject’s potential examination and take into consideration how much he/she can gain from this agreement with this subject, finding an immediate conclusion. 

The Japanese interlocutor will analyse history and give a high importance to roles and to the respect for honour. 

The South American interlocutor will focus on spending time together and become friends, gaining trust, getting to know each other, entering the “family”. 

We must always keep in mind that these timelines are extremely variable even within the same culture. Nothing guarantees us that a Brazilian behaves according to the stereotypical timeline, becoming a “mask” of his/her own culture. 

During an intercultural negotiation, the different ways, in which we perceive physical contact can turn into confrontation, or into discomfort for both parties. 

The contrast between cultures is evident when a European goes to an African or an Asian country, but this work’s objective, its focus, is to highlight how the intercultural factor forcefully breaks into every negotiation, even those between husband and wife in the same house, or between companies of the same country. 

Whenever different cultural systems (values, beliefs, thoughts, convictions, ways of expression) come into contact, there is a certain degree of interculturality, and diversity is often much wider than we think. 

Contact between cultures can produce stress or a formidable growth for human beings. Diversity results can lead to creativity and excitement, but also to misunderstandings and disagreements. 

In the worst-case scenario, misunderstandings and disagreements generate conflict, preventing personal and common goals from being achieved. 

One of the most important advice for intercultural negotiators is to try to share a negotiating timeline, by seeking an agreement to collaborate effectively, avoiding disagreements and misunderstandings. 

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 

__________

For further information see:

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Non-Verbal Intercultural Communication (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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In this second part I would like to continue talking about non-verbal communication and its characteristics, this time focusing on training, sensory perception, personal look and colour, while explaining the importance of identifying assonances and dissonances between verbal and non-verbal language.

Training

Training on the use of paralinguistic elements means learning the strategic use of pauses and tones. It includes many repertoires of theatrical and actor techniques, such as the Stanislavskij method, probably the only one truly capable of transforming expressive behaviours.

Without adequate preparation the chances of being competitive on the negotiating level decrease. As the gap between our training level and the training level of the counterpart increases, the risk of an unfavourable outcome during a negotiation grows.

Sensory Perceptions

Some clichés spreading in multicultural college campuses are that whites “taste like chicken”, Asians “smell of garlic”, blacks “taste of sweat”, etc.

The olfactory differences on an ethnic and genetic level do exist, but the perceived smell is largely determined by cultural factors such as nutrition, cleanliness or the use of perfumes.

Personal olfactory emissions are a communication tool.

It is certain that the sense of smell affects perception, and that food produces essences that exude from the skin and breath. If we want to manage even the smallest details of intercultural negotiation and, more generally, of the human contact, we must take care of these aspects.

Anything that can be attributed to the subject or to the corporate environment affects perception and image. Some clothing chains have resorted to the targeted deodorization of shops to create a more relaxed and pleasant atmosphere (environmental olfactory marketing).

Smell is a remote sense of the human being, partially abandoned in favour of senses such as sight and hearing. Animal “noses” are able to pick up smells that signal sexual emotions or predispositions, while human noses seem to have lost this trait.

There are practical implications for conscious personal deodorization: avoid foods that can produce strong breath emissions, avoid excessive personal fragrances, be aware of personal odours (e.g. sweat) and consider the importance of olfactory environmental marketing.

Personal Look

We usually know nothing about people’s real history. We can only assume it by looking at the symbols they decide to show us. There are signs/symbols everywhere: on the interlocutor and in his/her communicative space. Symbolic communication concerns the meanings that people associate to and perceive from those particular “signs”. By communicative space we mean any area linked to the subject’s “system”, such as his/her car, or the background of his/her computer, and any other sign from which we derive information, meanings and interpretations.

From a semiotic point of view, every element from which a subject draws meaning becomes a “sign”, whether the bearer is aware of it or not.

Look, clothing and accessories are among the most incisive factors that build one’s personal image.

Differences or similarities in clothing, for example, can put a person inside a professional ingroup (“one like us”, an “equal”) or an outgroup (“one different from us”), depending of the meaning that the word “us” has for the interlocutor.

In a widened signification system, the symbols associated to the brands used, the type of car, and even the office furniture, can become very important.

chronemic behaviours (the string of actions over time) are also broadened signals related to how frequently we change clothes, punctuality, way of driving (calm or nervous), way of eating (slow and relaxed vs. fast and voracious), etc.

Even considering the time a person takes in answering a question can be significant: slow or overly thoughtful responses can be interpreted as insincere in Western cultures or wise in Eastern cultures.

It can be said that in the field of intercultural communication nothing escapes the observation of the interlocutor, and every “sign” contributes to its classification and evaluation.

Colours

An additional element of symbolic communication is colour. The use of colours and the symbolisms associated with colours also vary according to cultures.

It is not possible to list all possible associations for every colour in each country, but I would like to underline the importance of paying attention to the symbolisms associated with colours, because there are many problems that could arise when choosing colours and graphics, for example in packaging, in business gifts and in objects.

Even objects and symbols are not neutral: an Italian company, for example, used the symbol of an open hand to create the company logo and key rings, producing a wave of protests in Greece, where the open hand symbol is used to offend.

The basic principle to avoid macroscopic errors is the use of pre-tests: a “pilot test” on some member of the local culture, who are able to give a feedback on the appropriateness of colours, shapes and symbolisms within their cultural context.

The pre-test method also applies to the choice of gifts, presents, and any other symbolic action whose impact may vary on a cultural basis.

Consonances and Dissonances between Verbal and Non-Verbal Language

Non-verbal communication can reinforce the verbal message or be dissonant with it.

Listening carefully and nodding can express interest more than just a verbal statement. Saying “I’m interested” with words and expressing boredom or disgust with body actions produces a dissonant signal and creates suspicion or irritation.

The coherence (matching) between words and actions:

  • increases the subject’s perceived honesty;
  • denotes trustworthiness;
  • shows interest;
  • shows that we are in control of the situation;
  • produces a sense of security and solidity of content.

On the contrary, the incongruity:

  • creates a sense of mistrust;
  • generates a feeling of lack of authenticity;
  • produces doubts and suspicions, because the heard verbal content is considered false.

Each linguistic style (on an interpersonal level) is associated with a precise modulation of the non-verbal style. We can indeed have:

  • situations of communicative reinforcement (the non-verbal style reinforces the verbal style);
  • situations of dissonance or inconsistency between verbal and non-verbal communication: the non-verbal language is on a different register than the verbal one.

The dissonances concern every semiotic system, every sign that carries a meaning. A company that declares itself important and does not have a website, or has an amateur website, expresses an incongruent image of itself.

"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 

__________

For further information see:

Non-Verbal Intercultural Communication (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 

__________

In the next two articles we are going to deal with non-verbal communication and its characteristics: in fact, the non-verbal language can deeply affect the result of an intercultural negotiation both positively and negatively, even though it is often a neglected aspect of communication.

The main channels through which the negotiator can send messages are the paralinguistic system (vocal aspects of communication, such as tones, accents, silences, interjections), the body language (body language), and personal accessories, including clothing and the general look.

To negotiate at an intercultural level, it is necessary to create a relationship. Body movements and attitudes can strongly express the interlocutor’s satisfaction, as well as his/her disgust and emotional suffering.

We perceive the interlocutor’s attitude through his/her behaviour, rather than through the linguistic content, which remains on the relationship surface. In depth, one’s relationship is determined by body and face movements, looks, facial expressions, and, generally, by the communicator’s complete non-verbal repertoire.

The intercultural negotiator, however, must always consider the fact that some non-verbal signals cane be perceived differently by another culture, sometimes even in an opposite way.

Wrong non-verbal and body attitudes can easily lead to an escalation (rise in tension, nervousness and irritation), while the task of an intercultural negotiator is to create a de-escalation: moderation of tones, relaxed atmosphere, favourable environment for negotiation.

The general objective of every intercultural negotiation is, in fact, achieving results, but, in order to do so, a climate of cooperation is needed.

The intercultural negotiator must therefore activate some conflict de-escalation procedures, practices that lead to a non-conflictual negotiation situation.

But what are these practices? In general, each culture uses different non-verbal rules, and therefore we would need for each nation or culture with which we deal.

The problem with these “easy manuals” is their poor resistance over time (cultures evolve) and in space (cultures change even within a few kilometres). Moreover, if you take them as rules, there is a real possibility to apply stereotypes, that are no longer valid.

When there is no specific indication that come from up-to-date experts of a particular culture, we can use some general rules of good communication, which can help us reduce errors, as exposed by the Public Policy Centre of the University of Nebraska:

  • use a calm, non-aggressive tone of voice;
  • smile, express acceptance;
  • use facial expression of interest;
  • use open gestures;
  • allow the person you are talking to dictate the spatial distances (spatial distances vary widely between cultures);
  • nod, give nods of agreement;
  • focus on people and not on documents;
  • bend your body forward as a sign of interest;
  • maintain a relaxed attitude;
  • hold an L-shaped position;
  • sit by your interlocutor’s side, not in front of him/her, because that is a confrontational position.

I would like to highlight that these general rules are only “possible options” and must be adapted to culture and context.

While talking about the non-verbal language it is impossible not to mention the body language. Our body speaks, expresses emotions and feelings.

The body language concerns:

  • facial expressions;
  • nods;
  • limbs movements and gestures;
  • body movements and social distance;
  • physical contact.

Cultural differences related to this area of communication can be deep. There are no golden rules teaching us what’s best: each choice is strategic and linked to the context (“contextual appropriateness“).

Physical contact, for example, is one of the most critical elements: while some Western standards of physical contact spread throughout the entire business community (e.g. shaking hands), every culture expresses a different degree of contact during greetings and interactions.

In general, if it is not possible to collect accurate information from experts of the local culture, it is advisable to limit physical contact in order not to generate a sense of invasiveness.

The study “of observations and theories concerning the use of human space, seen as a specific elaboration of culture” (Hall, 1988) is defined by proxemics.

On the negotiation front, the implications are numerous, since every culture has unwritten rules to define the boundaries of acceptability of interpersonal distances. In this case too, resorting to experts of the local culture is fundamental. If we do not have this possibility, then a valid rule is to let the other party define their own degree of distance, without forcing either an approach or a removal.

Human critical distances have an animal basis and a strong cultural variance: for example, Arab and Latin cultures are often “closer”, while Anglo-Saxon cultures are more “distant”.

Another element of non-verbal language, that we must consider, is the paralinguistic system. Paralinguistics concerns all vocal emissions that are not strictly related to “words”, and includes:

  • tone of the voice;
  • volume;
  • silences;
  • pauses;
  • rhythm of speech;
  • interjections (short vocal emissions, like “er”, “uhm”, etc.).

Paralinguistics establishes speech punctuation and helps convey emotional information.

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 

__________

For further information see: