American Business Managers In Cross-Cultural Negotiations

  • Category: Business
  • Words: 813
  • Grade: 85
One of the fastest ways for an American to sour negotiations
with other cultures is to think that everybody does business
the same as Americans. Thank goodness that this is so very
far from the truth. For Americans to succeed in the foreign
business world, we must learn to be more observant of the feelings
and cultures of others. In no place is this more evident than
in our own back door--Mexico and the Latin/South American countries.
Just because they are "local", we should be able to treat them the
same as we do our own contacts. This is so very far from the truth.

The Spanish culture of Mexico and the Latin/South American countries
are similar in so may ways to their Spanish ancestors, but are still
quite set in their own Cultural manners. Even in the smallest of
towns, there is a tight social ladder that must be adhered to if
negotiations are to be successful. Each person has their own place
in the society, and they must be counted as such.

A key are that the American Culture must re-learn is that of being
polite and proper. The Spanish-American culture is very socially
oriented, and the "air" that is left is very important. Common courtesy
and protocol are sensitive issues. A quick way to sour most
relationships is to demean the dominant male figure.

More than anyone else I have observed, American Businessmen and Women
like to dress-up and show how "proper" they are. This immediately
causes a problem in that conservative dress is the norm. On arrival
for meetings, or other activities, observe what the local attire is.
It is a bad omen to dress more formally than those you are meeting are.
Observe the bankers, lawyers, and the professionals/bureaucrats.

Americans are extremely impatient. In his book(1), Cateora describes a
meeting between a Japanese Executive and an American Executive. Assuming
the Japanese Executive couldn't understand English, the American lost a
good tool because he didn't know Japanese. He lost half of his negotiating
time while the Japanese Executive capitalized with his English. With the
Spanish, this is equally true. Never rush straight into business--take time
to get to know the individuals that you want to transact business with.
At the beginning of meetings, it is best to go to each individual in the room
and either introduce or be introduced. A good handshake is expected, and the
same is true when leaving. Always have a supply of good quality business
cards that are in the local language. Another good tactic is to have a
working knowledge of the local issues and discuss those before conducting
business. Generally, safe areas are family health, weather, or local sports.
Personal questions are not used as they can be seen as being rude.

Americans are true to the west. They enjoy their "space;" more than most
other cultures. Most Americans will find that the Spanish American cultures
tend to stand much closer to each other when talking, and embraces are the
norm between individuals that know each other well. Be prepared to share all
aspects of the family. If you are invited to eat, you should at least try
everything you are given. Complete all initial and follow-up meetings with a
letter. Respect dignity, and good manners will prevail in almost all cases.

As Jack Edmonston points out in his paper (2), Americans must learn to be more
"user" friendly. If a client doesn't like scales set up from 1 to 5, don't
use them. He also makes it very plain that if you can't use your arms and hands,
don't talk with the Italians.

Americans are more "actionable information conscious" than are most others.
We expect other cultures to change to meet us. Americans must find a common
ground to meet on. If we want to prosper, we must look at the client and deal
with them the way they expect to be dealt with.

If a meeting isn't going the way you want, relax. Don't try to force it to
progress faster than it should. Cateora tells the story about contract negotiations
with a delegation from the Former USSR. The meeting was held in a warm, congenial
location, and the Former Soviet Union delegation were very pleased to drag on the
talks until they were thawed out. The Americans were beginning to fear the talks
were breaking down, and almost made concessions that weren't necessary. By discussing
the problem with their home office, they waited until the Soviets were ready to deal,
and settled with them on a very large contract.

Until Americans learn to think globally, we will not be totally satisfactory in our
dealings abroad. We must slow our meetings, refine our culture, and become more flexible.

1) Cateora, Phillip R. & Graham, John L. (1999) International Marketing Irwin/McGraw Hill

2) Jack Edmonston, "U.S., overseas differences abound, researchers, however, find similarity
in some market segments." BUSINESS MARKETING Jan 1998 v83 nl p32.
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