Getting to Si, Ja, Oui, Hai, and Da

To be effective, a negotiator must take stock of the subtle messages being passed around the table. In international negotiations, however, you may not know how to interpret your counterpart’s communication accurately, especially when it takes the form of unspoken signals.


The author identifies five rules of thumb for negotiating in other cultures:
  1. Adapt the way you express disagreement: in some cultures, it’s OK to say “I totally disagree.” In others, that would provoke anger and possibly an irreconcilable breakdown of the relationship.
  2. Know when to bottle it up or let it all pour out: raising your voice when excited, laughing passionately, even putting a friendly arm around your counterpart,  these are common behaviors in some cultures but may signal a lack of professionalism in others.
  3. Learn how the other culture builds trust: negotiators in some countries build trust according to the confidence they feel in someone’s accomplishments, skills, and reliability. For others, trust arises from emotional closeness, empathy, or friendship.
  4. Avoid yes-or-no questions: instead of asking “Will you do this?” try “How long would it take you to get this done?”
  5. Be careful about putting it in writing: americans rely heavily on written contracts, but in countries where human relationships carry more weight in business, contracts are less detailed and may not be legally binding.



Erin Meyer is a professor and the program director for Managing Global Virtual Teams at INSEAD. She is the author of The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business (PublicAffairs, 2014). Twitter: @ErinMeyerINSEAD




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