Cross-Cultural Communications: Negotiating

Having a working knowledge of cultural traits proves to be beneficial when conducting negotiations. British linguist Richard D. Lewis charted cultural norms at a national level in his book, “When Cultures Collide, originally published in 1996 and now in a 2005 third edition.

His illustrations about the negotiation process provide knowledge of conversational range (which is shown with increasing width), obstacles (marked in gray), and cultural traits. For example, do you know which culture enjoys vigorous logical debates? The French. Americans typically lay their cards out on the table and want to do business as soon as possible, and Canadians are open and honest, they also lay their cards on the table, and will compromise for a win-win situation.

Lewis categorizes national characteristics into three types: “linear-actives, multi-actives, and reactives”.

Some countries have a more linear approach to negotiation, such as Germany and Switzerland. Linear cultures will plan, organize, and do one thing at a time. Lewis categorizes these countries as “linear-actives”.

Other countries are less linear in their approach, working on multiple things at once and prioritizing them by the relative importance each brings with it. Lewis offers Italians, Latin Americans and Arabs as examples of cultures with this “multi-active” approach.

Finally, “reactives” are cultures that give courtesy and respect the highest priority, while listening calmly and quietly, and reacting carefully to proposals. Lewis’ examples of this type of culture include the Chinese, Japanese and Finnish. For more information on cultural styles and the Lewis Model, click here.

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