The sphere of international negotiations has expanded considerably in the last decade, so we can easily see that intercultural negotiation is inevitable today. The unique feature of international negotiations is cultural differences influenced by various cultural backgrounds, principles, values ​​, and negotiators’ behavior.

As cultural misunderstandings are supposed to be the biggest impediment to international negotiations, it is essential to examine the effect of cultural differences on international negotiations and at the same time propose ways to manage them properly, as many cultural factors influence the guidelines.  The differences between the cultures influence the surface behavior and condition the fundamental values ​​held by the negotiators. Each negotiator brings to the negotiating table certain assumptions that, although deeply rooted, maybe unconscious for him. Therefore, communication is an essential tool for successful negotiations. Negotiators need to use this tool to achieve common goals, build future relationships, and resolve disputes.

About International Negotiation

“Like it or not, you are a negotiator. Negotiation is a fact of life”.

Roger Fisher
Professor and the founder of two consulting organizations devoted to strategic advice and negotiation training.

Negotiation is applied in many aspects of everyday life, even though you may not realize it.  You try to agree with a stranger on a price for his house, negotiate a price at an open market, negotiate a car purchase at a dealership, and negotiate between warring countries.

Everything in life is about negotiation.  It is an interactive process between two or more negotiators or parties by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute.

But whether it is defined as an art, a science that includes a series of rules and tools, an organized process of communication, a form of communication, or a simple exchange of views, negotiation is a segment of society, being present in all aspects of human existence and all forms. After a long journey, today, the negotiation process has become a prevalent topic, and the research on the negotiation itself is flourishing. In one of her articles, Linda Stamato stated that “there are two obvious reasons for reviving interest in the art of negotiation.” Firstly, it is necessary to consider that the failure of negotiation can lead to unproductive and, at the same time, costly conflicts. Secondly, this process is essential, not only to make decisions but also to resolve disputes and produce solutions that work.

Culture profoundly influences the way people think, communicate, and behave. It also affects the types of transactions they make and how they do it, their decisions, and the result under which these decisions can be presented.

The impact of culture on negotiation. Image via csoftintl

A rather complex structure characterizes international negotiations. The main reason determining this feature is the cultural differences between states, between international actors but most often between negotiators’ cultures. These differences have a pressing impact on the negotiator’s behavior, as misunderstandings due to differences between values, principles, and cultures make the negotiation process difficult. Negotiations of any kind have always depended in part on respect and attitude between negotiators.

“Great negotiation is about great collaboration, and it’s about several people with different aspects of the same problem.”

Chris Voss
Author of “Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” and the initiator of Negotiating MasterClasses.

The participants’ perception intensifies the differences between the negotiators’ cultures, so it is imperative to understand the counterpart to anticipate and avoid possible divergences.

Cultural differences can also be manifested by distinct differences between negotiation styles specific to these cultures. And yet, this does not mean that all members of a culture negotiate or should, to some extent, practice negotiations, in the same way, tactic, or similar procedure. Instead, there are typical patterns of behavior for most of them.

According to Remigiusz Smolinski, to be successful in the international negotiating arena, negotiators must develop a relatively high sensitivity to several cultural factors, identity and pursue a more culturally responsible strategy in a given negotiated framework presented. Still, at the same time, it must even recognize and take into account other individual and structural issues that may arise in the context of this framework.

How to manage cultural differences in negotiations?

We define culture as socially transmitted norms, beliefs, and values that influence individuals’ behavior in a given community, both nationally and internationally. As for the cultural dimension, like negotiation, it is not a modern invention and is characterized by many meanings and definitions. The cultural factor has become the basis of the negotiation process regardless of its nature, whether political-diplomatic, business, or international business negotiations.

Harvard Business School professor Max Bazerman have established three guidelines for achieving the balance cultural concerns in international negotiations:

Consider the individual – your opponent’s personality is more important than his/her cultural background. You may find that personality turns out to be a better indication of negotiating style than nationality or culture. 

Broaden scope – a more comprehensive mindset and broader thinking significantly increase and improves the chances of reaching a successful and long-lasting agreement. 

 Reduce stress – negotiators are more likely to behave according to cultural stereotypes when faced with extreme demands on their attention, rather than carefully analyzing the situation. For this reason, it is essential to resolve any differences that arise during your talks.


International negotiation is a very complex area. Two overall contexts influence international negotiations: the environmental context and the immediate context. The main reason why this is the case lies in the differences in negotiators’ cultures.  To succeed in the international negotiation arena, negotiators need to develop high sensitivity to cultural factors, identify and pursue a culturally responsive strategy most appropriate in a given negotiation setting, and acknowledge and consider individual and structural aspects occurring in this setting.

Negotiation scenario. Image via frontline-negotiations

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Ana Damaschin

Ana Damaschin

Senior Researcher, The Nagaoka Review