In international negotiations, relationships are often as important as achieving your goals. The ability to understand the other side — their perspective, culture, cognitive processes, and constraints — is therefore critical to reach integrative solutions perceived as favorable by both parties.
A basic fact about negotiation is that you are dealing with human beings with emotions, different values, distinctive experiences, and individual points of view. They can also fail to correctly interpret what you intend to communicate. In short, they are irrational. Be equipped to deal with the other side’s irrationality.
Every individual is the product of a combination of three elements that affect their behavior and cognitive processes:
1. Culture The invisible lens that filters how the person sees the world; the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group from members of another. Culture does not involve only national culture, but also other cultural influences such as gender, education, age, profession, social class, and access
2. Social context The immediate environment in which the person grew up (i.e., family and friends) and employs his or her skills (organization s/he works for).
3. Personality A person’s combined behavioral, emotional, and mental response patterns.
You should put yourself in the other side’s shoes to understand their values, norms, and biases. In an international context, it is particularly important to pay attention to social psychological measures, because negotiators judge the negotiation process according to their feelings about:
› the objective outcome of the negotiation
› the self (e.g., saving face and living according to one’s own values and standards)
› the fairness of the negotiation process
› their relationship with the other party.
Your goal at the negotiation table is not to understand the what but rather the why. Shifting your focus from what the other party does and says to what the other party thinks is fundamental. Never accept the other side’s replies at face value; filter and calibrate the information that is provided to you.
If you understand why certain behaviors occur, you can better communicate with the other side and unlock the potential of a mutually beneficial agreement.