How Does Culture Affect Negotiation Dynamics?

Negations are often difficult because they involve two different parties trying to convince each other. Nevertheless, the process can even become harder if working internationally across borders or communities. Why? The secret lies in cultural variations. Individuals should only enter into a cross-cultural negotiation after preparation as culture determines conversation goal, communication strategies, and personal styles.

People from different cultures observe the role of negotiation differently. While many people understand conversation as a way of developing a contract, others believe that it is a way of forming relationships (Liu et al., 2012). Realistically, communication parties might have different goals regarding their purpose of negotiation. For instance, individuals that see negotiation as a way of forging strong relationships take more time in introductory section of discussions compared to the goal-oriented people. Further, apart from developing a contract, someone has to prove to a relationship oriented negotiators that they can forge a beneficial long-term relationship to win trust. The purpose of negotiation further determines personal styles of individuals as methods of speaking, dressing, and interaction (Ahammad et al., 2016). These techniques might create confusion if not well understood. It is worth knowing other parties’ culture to determine their personal goals and interest considering the differences in negotiation goals and individual styles.

Communication techniques differ across cultures. Some communities prefer direct and simple strategies, while others use complicated and indirect communication methods. The variations may result in different understanding of verbal and non-verbal forms of speech (Liu et al., 2012). For example, those negotiating with direct communicators might expect clear responses, while indirect cultures give mixed reactions to proposals based on their understanding of communication strategies. The problem comes in because even where individuals use a common language, they tend to have different pronunciations, vocabularies, and non-verbal cues (Ahammad et al., 2016). Therefore, for a successful negotiation, parties have to understand each other and avoid jargons that might create confusion during communication.

Culture can act as a barrier to communication as it dictates the communication strategies, personal styles, and goals. First, individuals from different communities have varying purposes during conversation. The variation in goals can create confusion as it determines personal styles and aspects of negotiation. Second, people give different importance to verbal and non-verbal cues based on their community. Therefore, parties have to become open-minded and have some basic intercultural knowledge to avoid confusion.




Ahammad, M. F., Tarba, S. Y., Liu, Y., Glaister, K. W., & Cooper, C. L. (2016). Exploring the factors influencing the negotiation process in cross-border M&A. International Business Review, 25(2), 445-457.

Liu, L. A., Friedman, R., Barry, B., Gelfand, M. J., & Zhang, Z. X. (2012). The dynamics of consensus building in intracultural and intercultural negotiations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 57(2), 269-304.




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