26. International Business and Cross-cultural Communication
The increase in international business and in foreign investment has created a need for executives with knowledge of foreign languages and skills in cross-cultural communication. Americans, however, have not been well trained in either area and, consequently, have not enjoyed the same level of success in negotiation in an international arena as have their foreign counterparts.
Negotiating is the process of communicating back and forth for the purpose of reaching an agreement. It involves persuasion and compromise, but in order to participate in either one, the negotiators must understand the ways in which people are persuaded and how compromise is reached within the culture of the negotiation.
In many international business negotiations abroad, Americans are perceived as wealthy and impersonal. It often appears to the foreign negotiator that the American represents a large multi-million-dollar corporation that can afford to pay the price without bargaining further. The American negotiator’s role becomes that of an impersonal purveyor of information and cash.
In studies of American negotiators abroad, several traits have been identified that may serve to confirm this stereotypical perception, while undermining the negotiator’s position. Two traits in particular that cause cross-cultural misunderstanding are directness and impatience on the part of the American negotiator. Furthermore, American negotiators often insist on realizing short-term goals. Foreign negotiators, on the other hand, may value the relationship established between negotiators and may be willing to invest time in it for long-term benefits. In order to solidify the relationship, they may opt for indirect interactions without regard for the time involved in getting to know the other negotiator.