Scroll Top

Multicultural negotiations: key dimensions to succeed

As markets become increasingly globalizedbusiness leaders may find an added layer of complexity when trying to mediate conflict, achieve a consensus or gain team alignment in the form of cross-cultural divides. For Prof. Kandarp Mehtathe crux of successful multicultural negotiations is a deep awareness of our cultural affinity, as well as that of our counterpart.  

“We all have cultural blind spots that can undermine our ability to effectively negotiate”.  

Kandarp Mehta, IESE Professor 

“For this reason, it’s important to expand our awareness beyond superficial cultural stereotypesIn this regard, he highlights three main archetypes – dignityhonor and face cultures – to bear in mind when taking part in a multicultural negotiation”.

3 keys for a multicultural negotiation 

1. Dignity

Dignity cultures like those prevalent in North America, Northern Europe and Australia-New Zealand stress the value of the individual and a data-driven approach. In these contexts, negotiators need to understand and trust the person sitting opposite them before they engage in any type of business transaction. 

2.  Honor

In honor cultures, characteristic in South America, Northern Africa and the Middle Eastyou not only represent yourself; you represent the entire group, which means protecting the honor of the individual and the community is paramount. In these regions, negotiations often center on offers, substantiating offers and getting concessions.

3.  Face

In China, Japan and other East Asian cultures, societies are based on maintaining stable social hierarchies and social cohesion. To preserve these social constructs, negotiations are more indirect, complex and multifaceted compared to dignity cultures since parties dtheir best to avoid confrontation and save face  

While gaining a better understanding of these prototypes is useful, Prof. Mehta is quick to point out that they rarely exist in their purest form. Culture isn’t really a matter of citizenship, nationality, race or ethnicity. In essence, it is a set of beliefs and norms that drives our behavior, which also includes the cultures specific to distinct communities, organizations or sectors.” 

Also important is remembering that you’re negotiating with a person, not a representative of a specific nationality or ethnicity. As Prof. Mehta observes, “Anything that helps us avoid the trap of ethnocentrism and gain a better understanding of why people behave the way they do is helpful. Take a genuine interest in your negotiating partner as an individual and aspire to discover the motivations, objectives and needs that are driving their behavior.”  


If you would like to boost your negotiating skills in multicultural settings, learn more about IESE’s Winning Negotiation Strategies”. Delivered over five weeks in a live online format, it equips managers with proven frameworks and techniques to excel in any negotiation context. 

Related Posts