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Negotiation skills across different cultural approaches #3

We all know that you can write the best claim in the world, but if you can’t negotiate and convince the other party to pay you, it’s been for nought! Negotiation skills are potentially more important than technical skills.

Accordingly, much has been written about the skills required to persuade and influence when in negotiation with clients, contractors, your boss or even your spouse. As difficult as this is, on international construction projects you can throw into the mix different cultures and this makes it even more complex and challenging.

In my final blog of this series, I will now cover the key points to remember if you hope to successfully negotiate alongside the different cultural styles and approaches to negotiation.

1. Listen and observe. This may sound obvious but by actively listening and noticing the body language of others, you will pick up on all sorts of cues and clues. Most people, regardless of culture will appreciate you showing an interest in what they are saying, and are likely to respond positively.

2. Do your homework. Take time out to read up on any cultural issues you may encounter at your meeting such as the etiquette of greeting attendees, whether to expect a team of negotiators or single person and whether to expect to build a friendly rapport or to keep things very cool and business-like.

3. Always remain calm and professional. The meeting may not start on time, or the agenda may go out of the window but you should keep your patience at all times. This isn’t necessarily your colleagues being rude; punctuality and sticking to an agenda may just not be a priority for them. Also handy to remember is that some cultures may test your patience to see how you react and gauge your ‘trustworthiness’!

4. Ensure everyone is comfortable with the language. The most obvious problem with cross cultural negotiations is of course having a common language. If interpreters are involved, ensure they are on your side and assisting rather than hindering. If you sense confusion, slow things down and seek clarity, for yourself or others.

5. Don’t rush to close the deal. Unless of course, that is the approach agreed and desired by all attending. If you push too hard for a conclusion, you could risk isolating some cultures and walking away with nothing.

Sounds simple in theory but as always, common sense is the best approach. Good luck!

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