You can’t expect negotiations with the French to be like negotiations with Americans, and the same holds true for every culture around the world.
British linguist Richard D. Lewis charted communication patterns as well as leadership styles and cultural identities in his book, “When Cultures Collide,” which is now in a 2005 third edition. His organisation offers classes in cross-cultural communication for clients like Unilever and BMW.
Although cultural generalizations can be overly reductive, Lewis, who speaks 10 languages, insists it can be done fairly, writing: “Determining national characteristics is treading a minefield of inaccurate assessment and surprising exception. There is, however, such a thing as a national norm.”
Scroll down to see Lewis’ insights on negotiating with people around the world.
Americans lay their cards on the table and resolve disagreements quickly with one or both sides making concessions.
People in the UK tend to avoid confrontation in an understated, mannered, and humorous style that can be either powerful or inefficient.
Germans rely on logic but 'tend to amass more evidence and labour their points more than either the British or the French.'
Italians 'regard their languages as instruments of eloquence' and take a verbose, flexible approach to negotiations.
The Swiss tend to be straightforward, nonaggressive negotiators. They obtain concessions by expressing confidence in the quality and value of their goods and services.
Bulgarians may take a circuitous approach to negotiations before seeking a mutually beneficial resolution, which will often get screwed up by bureaucracy.
Poles often have a communication style that is 'enigmatic, ranging from a matter-of-fact pragmatic style to a wordy, sentimental, romantic approach to any given subject.'
The Dutch are focused on facts and figures but 'are also great talkers and rarely make final decisions without a long 'Dutch' debate, sometimes approaching the danger zone of over-analysis.'
The Chinese tend to be more direct than the Japanese and some other East Asians. However, meetings are principally for information gathering, with the real decisions made elsewhere.
The Indian English 'excel in ambiguity, and such things as truth and appearances are often subject to negotiation.'
Singaporeans generally take time to build a relationship, after which they can be shrewd negotiators.
Koreans tend to be energetic conversationalists who seek to close deals quickly, occasionally stretching the truth.
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