August 8, 2012
Attorneys are increasingly engaging in bargaining interactions with persons from other cultures. So many business firms are multinational and/or they regularly structure deals with foreign parties. Many Americans make the mistake of assuming that people around the world all negotiate the same way. Some cultures are highly individualistic (e.g., the U.S.), while others are collectivist in nature (e.g., Japan). Some are low context cultures in which speakers say exactly what they mean (e.g., the U.S.), while others are high context cultures where you have to know the particular context to understand the meaning of what is being communicated. Some nations require substantial direct or indirect government involvement in transnational business deals, while others take a more laissez-faire approach. In some cultures, it is acceptable to talk business during social sessions, while in others such behavior is considered inappropriate. Some individuals prefer to negotiate in their own countries, while others like to travel to other nations to structure deals.
Although it is true that persons from particular countries do not all negotiate alike, it is amazing how many American lawyers are individualistic, legalistic, and impatient, and how many Chinese are collectivist and relationship oriented. It can be especially helpful for Americans to read up on other cultures before they have to interact with persons from such areas. Two excellent books are: Olegario Llamazares, How to Negotiate Successfully in 50 Countries (2008) and Terri Morrison & Wayne Conaway, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands ((2006) (covering 60 countries).