Negotiating Across Cultures

As business becomes more global, it is inevitable that we will need to communicate and negotiate with people from different cultural backgrounds. Culture is a complete way of living and impacts both our verbal and our non-verbal communication. Negotiating with these communication difficulties can be very difficult.

Cultural communication differences occur mainly in five areas:

1. Their treatment of time

2. The directness of their communication

3. Their level of formality

4. Their propensity to negotiate

5. Their tendency to focus on the individual or the group


Different cultures treat time very differently. Monochronic cultures are driven by timelines and deadlines. Punctuality, to them, is a foundation-stone of professionalism. If they have a meeting at 10.00am they will arrive beforehand and be ready to start on time.

Polychronic cultures view deadlines as flexible and are much less strict with their punctuality (and expectations of others). In the example above, they will plan to be at the meeting by 10.00am; but will struggle to get there by 10.10am.

Those from a monochromic culture will often misjudge polychronics as unreliable & disorganised. Worse still, they will perceive the other is using the ‘slow-boat’ technique – deliberately progressing slowly to make it harder for the other side to walk away (because they have so much time and energy invested in the negotiation already.)

Communication Directness

The directness of our communication is determined by our preference for high or low context communication. With high context communication, much of the meaning is inferred. You have to ‘read between the lines’ and interpret the message as much from what is not said as what is said.

Low context speakers are more direct and blunt. They say what they mean and mean what they say! They are more concerned about being precise and clear about their expectations than avoiding difficult conversations or saving face.


This is a moving scale with different cultures having different levels of formality at the initial meeting and as the relationship progresses. This impacts on so many conspicuous areas (method of greeting, forms of address, touching, topics of conversation) that it deserves constant vigilance. Those from a high-formality culture may be perceived as stiff and inflexible, while those from a culture with a lower level of formality may be perceived as rude or insensitive.

Propensity to Negotiate

With some cultures, haggling is a way of life: everything is negotiable… always. These are called ‘high-negotiation’ cultures. Their view of the world is that circumstances constantly change, so why not ask if these changes have opened up more options.

In contrast, those from a non-negotiating culture will bargain as part of the negotiating process; but, in their minds, once the deal is done, it’s locked-in. They find those from a high-negotiating frustrating and may even misjudge them as being manipulative.

Individual or Group Focus

Some cultures celebrate the individual. These individualist cultures produce people who are comfortable in the limelight and expect recognition and credit for their accomplishments.

The alternative – collectivist cultures – value the community or group more than the individual. This produces people who will be less comfortable being singled out for attention or praise.

East Vs West?

Some writers have looked at cultural differences comparing Eastern and Western cultures. If this was ever valid, it is certainly too simplistic in today’s world. Here are two reasons:

• People move between cultures so much, their behaviour becomes a mix of both. Consider the number of people whose education has been a mix of Eastern Primary and Secondary Schools and Western Universities. Many Westerners have spent a majority of their career working in the East.

• Even within those hemispherical groupings there is massive variation. Consider the difference between negotiating with someone from mainland China and a Japanese; or the difference between negotiating with a German and an Australian.

Culture Vs Personality

Just because culture is the obvious difference between two parties, it is often blamed for negotiating difficulties when the actual problem is a personality clash. Cultural stereotyping is a powerful temptation that will only sabotage your attempts to reach agreement. Treat them as people first.

To effectively negotiate with someone from another culture, consider the five areas highlighted in this article. Where do you fit on a scale of each of these criteria? Where does the other party fit? If there are any significant differences you can prepare for them. For example, if the other party is more polychronic than you, you might allow for this when setting meeting times or in time-limiting your offer.

Cultural differences are a factor that will increasingly affect your negotiation success. Defining and quantifying your cultural differences will help you better understand the other person and make it more likely that they will understand you – a recipe for great deals!

Presentation Emergencies – What to Do When Things Go Wrong

Always hope for the best, however, be prepared for the worst. This is good advice for preparing for any presentation. By being prepared for things that may go wrong, your presentation will go on without skipping a beat. Here are 9 common emergencies and how to deal with them;

1. Your computer or projector does not work. If any part of your technology fails, don’t spend half of your presentation time trying to fix it. When the attendees arrive for the meeting this is not the time for a dress rehearsal. They are in their seats and ready to go. Respect their time by starting on time. If your computer or projector fails, go on without it. You can always refer them to the handouts and/or offer to get them slides after the presentation. To overcome this situation, always have a backup of everything you will need. When we deliver our presentations we bring an extra computer, extra cables, extra clicker and even an extra LCD projector. If you don’t have all of these, ask the meeting planner if they can have backups available. We also suggest you get to the room at least 2 hours before your presentation to have a run through with all the equipment. If something goes wrong you will have ample time to fix it and will be ready to start when the attendees arrive.

2.Your slides are unavailable or not working. We suggest that you send a copy of the slides to the meeting planner in advance and suggest they put it on their computer. We also recommend that you have your slides on your computer, on a thumb drive and a CD. Also, have a hard copy of your presentation on paper. If all else fails you can have the attendees follow the handout. If you are traveling don’t put all of your backups in the same place. Make sure to have one thumb drive on you, a CD in your luggage and your computer as a carry on.

3.Long winded speakers. If the speakers in front of you tend to go over their time, be prepared to stay on time. You are a professional and it is important that you end on time. Adults are very focused on time and they will hold it against you. For example, in one presentation, Arnold was asked to deliver a one hour keynote for a large organization. The President of the organization said to Arnold before he went on that he would like to say a few words. His few words lasted about 30 minutes. Since Arnold’s presentation was the start of an all- day meeting, everything needed to be on schedule. Since going overtime is a common occurrence, Arnold was prepared to shorten his presentation and quickly took out a couple of points. Needless to say the timing of the meeting was back on track and the meeting planner was very appreciative. Assume people will go overtime and be ready to adapt.

4. Venue Change. The room or seating arrangement is different than what you expect. One of the advantages of getting to a meeting room early is that you can make changes. There is a saying, “Ask forgiveness, not permission.” When you arrive at the meeting and the chairs are not set up the way you want just go ahead and change them. If they change the room on you at the last minute, be prepared in advance for this possibility and practice in small and large rooms.

5 Hecklers. These are people who have their own agenda. They want attention, want to prove you’re wrong, are insecure and want to look good or are just having a bad day. The best approach is to acknowledge them and their questions or comments. Then mention to them that it is either off track or give them a short answer if the comment is relevant. Offer to meet with them after the session to answer any questions or concerns they may have. Remember, if the meeting gets out of control because of a heckler the attendees blame the speaker for not keeping it moving along. See the chapter on Dealing with a Disruptive Audience for more tips.

6. Surprise Interruptions. This could be anything from a fire drill to a hastily called staff meeting to someone getting sick. Arnold had a situation like this recently where he was scheduled to deliver an all- day seminar. As he arrived he was told that there was a last minute all hands meeting scheduled for the day. Everyone would be out for 2 ½ hours. Instead of panicking, Arnold reworked his presentation and shortened parts of it. Also, instead of going over some of the things or doing an exercise, he skipped the exercise and told them to read specific chapters in his book… Interruptions are also a good place for humor. For example, if the fire drill goes off you can say, “I know it was one of you who pulled this to get out of this class” or if a cell phone goes off you may ask everyone, “Please raise your right hand, that’s the hand to slap someone if their cell phone goes off.”

7.Someone is sleeping or needs to walk out. Let it go. Don’t call attention to it. You never know what is happening in other people’s lives. They may have had a problem with their spouse or child and have been up all night. There might be a problem with a family member or they are awaiting a very important call. For example there was one instructor who noticed someone sleeping during his presentation. The instructor went over to the person and started shaking them, telling them to wake up. The person eventually woke up. However on further research they found that the person had narcolepsy, which is a sleeping disease.

8. Only a few people show up. If you are expecting a large group and only a few people show up there are a number of things you can do. As soon as you realize that this is going to happen, get rid of some of the chairs. You can also put tape around the seats in the back of the room so no one sits there. If you can’t do either of these and everyone is sitting all over the room, you can either ask them to move forward or move towards them. However, be careful about trying to coerce people to sit in the front of the room, or move closer to you once they have already been seated. One of the reasons some people do not move to the front of the room is the same reason that most people do not like making presentations. In the front of the room, they feel like all of the eyes are on them. There is also the possibilities that they would like to situate themselves in the back of the room for close access to the bathroom, or they may be expecting several telephone calls during the presentation and don’t want to disturb others. It could also be a matter of timing, location or a host of other reasons. The bottom line is that you don’t know why they are seated in the back, and if you try to force them to the front of the room once they have already sat down, you run the risk of embarrassing them and turning them off before your presentation begins. Also, don’t take it personally when people don’t show up. It is not necessarily your presentation. It may just be the timing, location or other things that are happening at the same time. This is something to consider when you do not have time to cordon off the seats in the back of the room.

9. You’re late. For reasons out of your control you may be late for the meeting. If this happens, make sure you have the mobile phone of the person in charge. Call them immediately. Give them suggestions such as putting on the next speaker in your place or explain to them about an exercise they can do when you are not there. To make sure this does not happen always give yourself plenty of time to get the location. If you are flying, leave early the day before your presentation. If you plane is cancelled of delayed you can still go out on a later plane. If driving consider leaving the night before. Even if the presentation location is close, this is a wise idea. For example, we live in the Washington DC area. Even when a client wants us to speak at a meeting in Washington DC we stay at the hotel where the meeting is located. It just takes one traffic jam or road closure to make you late. We also recommend that when you do get to your location, call the meeting planner and let them know that you have arrived. It will take off some of the stress from them.

Three Easy Tips For Giving Her a Memorable Anniversary Present

Gentlemen listen up! The old adage, “it’s the thought that counts” is one hundred percent true. While flowers and chocolates make nice anniversary presents, they’re hardly special. Give her a gift that truly says, “I love you” by applying these three simple gift-giving techniques: make it personal, get creative and present it properly. With these easy-to-follow steps, you’ll be sure to knock the socks off of the woman you love.

She’s not generic, so her present shouldn’t be either.
Flowers, chocolates and jewelry are so expected. Sure they’re nice to receive, but when you think about it, do they really say “I know you” and “I love you”? Didn’t think so. Take a few moments right now to think about your wife and her hobbies. What does she enjoy doing in her spare time? Does she love cooking? Taking bubble baths? Shopping? Pinpoint just one of the things she loves doing and then select a gift that correlates to that action or hobby. If she loves cooking, for example, get her a beautiful cookbook or a subscription to Food and Wine Magazine. If she’s a bather why not buy her a selection of bath salts, bubbles and lotions. This technique can be applied to nearly any hobby she might have. But don’t stop there. You can take your gift to the next level with a little bit of creativity.

Apply a little creativity.
Let’s say that you’ve purchased a new cookbook for your wife, the aspiring chef. With just a little more effort you can make the gift even more thoughtful and exciting to receive. Open up the book and select one of the recipes from its pages. Now, hop on over to William’s Sonoma and get her a few of the utensils that the recipe suggests using or go to the market and purchase a some of the spices it calls for. Need another example? Add some scented candles and a smooth jazz CD to the bathing salts and lotions you’re getting your bathing beauty. It’s simple really, but with a little extra effort and a couple more components, you’re turning an already personalized gift into an even more thoughtful one. Now, one last component: packaging.

Presentation goes a long way.
Presentation is half the fun of gift giving and receiving. There’s a reason why women love getting a present from Tiffany & Co. as opposed to any other jeweler. Receiving their signature Robin’s Egg Blue box is almost as exciting as the treasure that lies inside of it! Try individually wrapping each of the gifts you’ve selected rather than throwing them unwrapped into a gift bag. With multiple gifts to open there are multiple elements of surprise to be had. Take it one step further and number each gift in the order of which you’d like her to open them. Then present her first with a numbered card that has a clue assigned to each number as to what each gift will be. You can even pepper your clues with a little romance. For example, wrap your cookbook and number it “1″. Then put a 1 on the card and write something to the nature if “Here’s to a future of candle-lit dinners.” No need to be long winded, just have a little fun with it and she’ll have fun, too.

Now doesn’t that leave flowers and chocolates out in the dust? With a little effort and thought you can easily give a gift that truly says, “I love you”. Just remember to make it personal, be creative and don’t forget about presentation. By following these three steps you’re pretty much guaranteed a happy wife. And a happy wife makes for a very happy anniversary. Now, get shopping!