An international team of French and American researchers recently conducted experiments on the effect of anger during international negotiations. The experiments involved 130 Americans, 63 of whom had a European background while 67 had an Asian background. The aim of this study was to establish whether or not anger could be used as a tool to influence a foreign counterpart, regardless of his/her cultural core values.
The results are clear: Americans with a European background are more likely to accept demands coming from a counterpart who openly shows their frustration or anger. However, using this particular strategy will be ineffective with Asian interlocutors. But how can we explain these differences?
In Europe, negotiations are usually seen as a test where both parties confront their strengths: the strongest wins while the weakest inevitably loses and is the one who makes compromises. In this context, showing anger or a strong display of emotion can be a way to influence the outcome of the negotiations as well as a way to express your will and eagerness to succeed.
This strategy may not be effective everywhere in Europe however. For example, showing emotions tends to be negatively perceived in countries with a neutral communication style such as Norway or Germany. On the other hand, countries with an affective communication style like Spain or Italy tend to accept displays of anger or strong feelings.
Meanwhile in Asia, the importance of harmony is paramount and is present even during business negotiations. Building this harmony takes time but it can result in consensus and a win-win situation. Asians also tend to be obsessed with the concept of ‘face’ and will do everything they can to keep face during a negotiation. A loss of face in most Asian countries includes any sign of violent emotion such as anger or exaggerated eagerness. Shattering harmony is also considered inappropriate and can harm your reputation and jeopardise the whole negotiation process along with future business opportunities.
If we consider these huge differences in negotiation styles and expectations, it’s not difficult to foresee potential problems and risks that European and Asian negotiators may encounter during international meetings.
Providing employees the tools they need to understand their international counterparts and work effectively in a global context is key to success. Cross cultural awareness training courses such as Negotiating across Cultures can help you and your organisation to truly understand the complexities of cross-cultural negotiation styles and expectations and give you strategies to manage them effectively.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2010