Stephen Weiss proposed a useful way of thinking about the options we have when negotiating with someone from another culture. Weiss observes that negotiators may choose from among eight different culturally responsive strategies. These strategies may be used individually or sequentially, and the strategies can be switched as the negotiation progresses. When choosing a strategy, negotiators should be aware of their own and the other party’s culture in general, understand the specific factors in the current relationship, and predict or try to influence the other part’s approach. Weiss’s culturally responsive strategies may be arranged into three groups, based on the level of familiarity (low, moderate, high) that a negotiator has with the other party’s culture. Within each group there are some strategies that the negotiator may use individually (unilateral strategies) and others that involve the participation of the other party (joint strategies).
Employ Agents or Advisers (Unilateral Strategy)
One approach for negotiators who have very low familiarity with the other party’s culture is to hire an agent or adviser who is familiar with the cultures of both parties. This relationship may range from having the other party conduct the negotiations under supervision (agent) to receiving regular or occasional advice during the negotiations (adviser). Although agents or advisers may create other challenges, they may be quite useful for negotiators who have little awareness of the other party’s culture and little time to prepare.
Bring in a Mediator (Joint Strategy)
Many types of mediators may be used in cross-cultural negotiations, ranging from someone who conducts introductions and then withdraws to someone who is present throughout the negotiation and takes responsibility for managing the negotiation process. Interpreters will often play this role, providing both parties with more information than the mere translation of words during negotiations. Mediators may encourage one side or the other to adopt one culture’s approaches or a third cultural approach (the mediator’s home culture).
Induce the Other Negotiator to Use Your Approach (Joint Strategy)
Another option is to persuade the other party to use your approach. There are many ways to do this, ranging from making a polite request to asserting rudely that your way is best. More subtly, negotiators can continue to respond to the other party’s requests in their own language because they “cannot express themselves well enough” in the other’s language. Although this strategy has many advantages for the negotiator with low familiarity, there are also some disadvantages. For instance, a Japanese party may become irritated or insulted by having to make the extra effort to deal with a Canadian negotiator on Canadian cultural terms. In addition, the other negotiator may also have a strategic advantage because he or she may now attempt more extreme tactics and excuse their use on the basis of his or her “cultural ignorance” (after all, negotiators can’t expect the other party to understand everything about how they negotiate).