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Cultural Differences in Business

If you’ve ever worked with different cultures, you know that misunderstandings and conflicts can easily arise due to cultural differences. Knowing how to deal with these cultural differences gives you a solid advantage in promoting your activities and conducting your negotiations smoothly.

When it comes to getting around the negotiation table, most of us know that the smallest details can change the outcome in our favour or take away the potential benefit from us. Wearing the right outfit, carrying a good posture or even sitting at the right place around the table, all these “details” play a crucial role in how you will conduct your meeting.  Being aware of cultural differences is one of them and I would confidently say, probably one of the most important.

Sounds obvious? Believe me, it isn’t

What would a meeting on BREXIT in Brussels look like without this awareness? All kidding aside, we support our clients on a daily basis for similar challenges, the impact is real.

Having spent most of my career abroad, working across different countries, I have countless examples where a slight misinterpretation can lead to a “no-deal” or a poor result.

The subject is indeed incredibly complex and would certainly require a few books to cover in an acceptable level of details. For today’s article, we will give you 3 tips that will significantly increase your chance of success in meetings where different cultures are involved.

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Be aware of the differences.

This is the number one mistake that even top leaders make when approaching a negotiation with a party from another culture. I have experienced meetings in my career where millions of pounds of contracts have been badly negotiated due to the parties’ inability to truly understand each other. On the other hand, I have also experienced meetings where contracts of a similar size came out of nowhere, as the parties clearly understood and trusted each other. After all, business is about people.

Do your research

Searching online for tips, forums, or blogs is usually a great place to start. You can also contact us if you need professional assistance. While some would say not to trust stereotypes, I would recommend taking them as useful information:

–        Germans are generally straight to the point,

–        English prefer to turn around the point, until there is no other choice than to address it

–        Frenchs like details and tend to be factual

–        Italians express their fear and tend to use their hands a lot etc…

Obviously, the examples above might not be applicable to everyone, dealing with people is a case by case matter.  Being aware of the potential differences and learning from other people’s experiences can also help you see the situation from a different perspective.

Don’t jump to conclusions

My final tip for today is to avoid jumping to conclusions. While I appreciate that trusting your intuition has an important place in negotiations, it is important to take a step back when it comes to dealing with a foreign party.

Don’t be offended if a French client tells you that something is wrong with your proposal. Instead, assume he’s trying to figure out the details, which is a necessary step he/she needs to take to make a decision.

You can also read an interesting article here

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