December 2016
Raphael Lapin

Negotiation, Mediation and Litigation-Avoidance Specialists Since 1995

10940 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD, Suite 1600
Tel: 888-964-8884
Dear Clients and Friends,


In today's world of globalization, it is easy to be mislead into thinking that cross cultural barriers are a thing of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth. I n this December '16 edition of  NE GOTIATION STRATEGIES,  I present an operational framework with which to manage cross-cultural negotiations.
For your reading convenience, we also distill this into a brief lessons learned at the end of the column.
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Also see  About Lapin Negotiation Services below for ways in which we can make a high impact and a demonstrable and substantive difference to your organization, negotiations and resolving of disputes.

Wishing all of you and yours the very best of the Season's Greetings

Raphael Lapin
A very common challenge that we face is how to avoid projecting our own values, fears and concerns onto others, such as our clients or negotiating counterparts. A lawyer for example might go to battle on behalf of a client for the maximum restitution that he perceives possible when the client really wants to settle amicably and move on. A doctor might prescribe an entire arsenal of pain medication when the patient might prefer to live with some moderate pain rather than to intoxicate himself with all those chemicals. A financial adviĀ­sor with a high risk tolerance may talk his client into a high risk/high return investment when his client is far more risk averse. 

This becomes a problem when we negotiate across borders and attempt to impose our own values, beliefs and systems onto the other side. What then might be a more effective way to successfully negotiate with those from different cultures to our own?
In helping our corporate clients who regularly negotiate across cultures, we provide them with an operational framework with which to manage these significant cultural differences. In developing this framework, we distilled these differences into four categories: communication; value priorities; decision-making processes; and managing and management

Unless these four areas are acknowledged and addressed in cross cultural negotiations, relationships will be strained, progress diminished, trust eroded and sub-optimal outcomes, if any, will result.
Different Communication Styles
Different cultures communicate in different ways which can affect not only the negotiation itself, but also the continuing relationship, post negotiation. These differences create a greater risk of misunderstandings due to diverse communication behavior, patterns and greater ambiguity in terminology and phrases.
In establishing a strong working relationship with your cross-cultural counterparts, it is useful to devote some discussion to communication. Good questions to generate dialogue around communication differences might be: 
  • Which methods of communication generally work best for you?
  • Given your experience in working with other nationalities, what foreseeable gaps might occur in our communication that might be of concern to you? How might we preempt them?
  • In situations where we may need information from one another, what might be the best way of obtaining that?
  • What do you think might cause misunderstandings and how should we best deal with them?
Addressing such issues up front will help towards learning a good deal about your counterpart's communication style and allow you to design a process that is aligned with their communication preferences.
Different Value Priorities
In our work with other nationalities and cultures what always strikes us is how different cultures attach value to different things. For example in the US world of business, profitability is of high value, whereas in many Arab cultures loyalty is of greater value. In Europe, leisure and living is of higher value than accumulation of wealth and in many Asian cultures, honor is paramount.
In negotiating across cultures it is important to understand these value priority differences, to be sensitive to these differences and  to maintain an open mind without assuming that they value things the same as we do.

Listen carefully and ask good questions to try to understand what is really important to them so that you can design responsive proposals. A proposal to someone from Asia which would perhaps violate his honor, or to a European that would require him to give up his holiday in the South of France, or to someone from an Arab country that would force him to fire his cousin would not be received very well.
Different Decision Making Approaches
Different cultures have different approaches to decision making, often vastly different from one another. Some like to make decisions by committee and consensus. Others make them unilaterally. There are those that do extensive research and information gathering before making decisions, and then there are those who make decisions quickly and intuitively, almost on a hunch. As negotiators don't assume that your cross-cultural partners make decisions in the same way as you do. Rather seek to understand how they typically make decisions so that you are not surprised later. 

Questions and requests that will help to uncover their decision-making processes are:
  • What important decisions have you had to make in the last three years?
  • Talk to me a little about the challenges of those decisions?
  • How did you overcome those challenges? How do you deal with uncertainties or time pressures?
  • Walk me through the process you would typically use to make important decisions?
  • Who else in your circle needs to be involved in these kinds of decisions?
Once you understand their decision-making approach, you can tailor the negotiation process and the agreement that you reach, to conform to their decision making norms, thereby increasing the chances of success both in the negotiation and in the business relationship moving forward. 
Different Management Models
Different cultures adopt very different models of management. These differences become crucially important in negotiating joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions.

Some cultures make decisions by consensus, others by authority and command, some by committee and others by democracy.  In negotiating ongoing relationships with foreign entities, it is useful to generate some discussion around management issues and approaches.
As a point of departure for this discussion ask: 
  • What models of management have you experienced in your work environments?
  • How have you managed those directly accountable to you?
  • Which management techniques and approaches have you found resonates with you and your organization most?
  • What kinds of managers have you found most ineffective? Why? 
These four components will provide a useful framework to manage cross-cultural differences in your negotiations. With this understanding you will be able to connect with your counterparts on a far deeper level, and they with you as you negotiate new and rewarding business relationships across borders. 

About1About Lapin Negotiation Services


Lapin Negotiation Services offers training, consulting, advising and executive coaching in negotiation, business diplomacy and dispute resolution services.


Our proprietary and aggressively results oriented services are designed to help your leadership, teams and individuals master the essential negotiation, relationship-building and conflict management skills that increase revenues, decrease the high cost of conflict  and build  strong working relationships .

Our skilled specialists will:
  • Help your organization build a highly effective negotiation competency and culture which translates into increased revenue and strong business relationships.
  • Train and prepare your sales teams for sales presentations
  • Develop high impact, customized learning systems to develop advanced skills and powerful techniques in negotiation, dispute resolution and relationship management.
  • Provide advice, strategy, guidance and representation in live negotiation challenges
  • Facilitate, mediate and advise in dispute resolution
  • Create a culture of collaboration by guiding and training teams and divisions to engage in dialogue, to negotiate and to partner
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Raphael Lapin

Raphael Lapin, a Harvard trained negotiation and communication specialist. He is adjunct professor of law at Whittier School of Law in Southern California and visiting professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Raphael trains and advises Fortune 500 companies and governments around the world and is the author of "Working with Difficult People" (DK Penguin Essential Managers Series)
Working with Difficult People
 Learn more about Raphael Lapin's book, "Working with Difficult People" by clicking on the image above