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Styles and Culture in Negotiation
Eko Yi Liao
Editors’ Note: Even at a basic level, a negotiator’s effort to understand how her own style works and how it might mesh or collide with the style of a counterpart is not only essential, but usefully illustrated in conjunction with cultural differences. Liao uses Chinese examples to show how individual styles work and don’t work in common combinations, in Western as well as Asian settings. This chapter should be read in conjunction with Abramson on Good Practices, Styles and Tricks, and Batra on Integrative and Distributive Bargaining.
Bola Lei is the head of the marketing department in a large online parenting information company in China. Her work includes constant negotiation with clients, subordinates, and the company’s senior management team, all of whom have different expectations and characteristics. While it is difficult to fully appreciate that Bola is a powerful negotiator from her amiable, humble, and unpretentious personality, she certainly is. When asked about her “tips” on successful negotiation, she said: “You need to be mindful of yours and the other party’s strategies and attitudes at the [negotiation] table. There is an old Chinese saying—‘when the enemy advances, we retreat; when they retreat, we pursue.’”
To interpret Bola’s strategy in the context of the negotiation styles of parties involved, it is also important to examine the “interaction effects” of different styles carried by two parties in negotiation. Exploring negotiation styles provides an effective means for understanding one’s own assumptions, views, and strategies in negotiation. Experienced negotiators are able to develop keen observations from the dynamics—the compatibility and/or the conflicting aspects of their own styles and those of the other party’s—throughout the process in order to achieve the expected outcomes. This chapter focuses on discussing a few lesser-known topics about negotiation styles and begins by introducing the concept and critical factors influencing one’s choice of style types, before shifting the focus to discovering the obstacles and challenges that can arise when different styles meet.
What is Negotiation Style?
Scholars and practitioners have used various terms and labels when describing individual philosophy of negotiation. The content of such philosophy is multifaceted, where different negotiators carry different assumptions and views toward the nature of negotiation, and in turn take various actions during the process. In this chapter, negotiation style is defined as an integrated concept, including one’s views (e.g., assumptions) toward and approach (e.g., strategies and actions) to negotiation.
Purposes of Learning Negotiation Styles
It is never easy to describe one’s negotiation style in simple terms. Even experienced negotiators like Bola may find it rather difficult to label their own style. However, classifying negotiation styles and investigating their unique characteristics is often the first step in negotiation awareness.
Understanding negotiation styles serves two major purposes. First, it is a helpful tool for organizing and categorizing a variety of information, terms, and concepts. With its application in various areas, such as law and business, research on negotiation styles has resulted in a rich base for learners to master different aspects of different negotiation styles.
Second, sufficient understanding of negotiation styles would shed light on negotiation practices in two major ways. Mindfulness is something one can always benefit from. Thus, knowledge of negotiation styles allows negotiators to be more aware of one’s own and other parties’ assumptions and potential strategies.
On the other hand, with sufficient understanding of both parties’ strategies—behavior tendencies and negotiating habits—negotiators are better able to decide which specific skills to use (e.g., best alternative to a negotiation agreement-BATNA, worst alternative to a negotiation agreement-WATNA, tone of voice, body language, level of trust, relationship-building approaches, etc.) in interaction. Bola often does her homework before and after each negotiation with customers. As a parenting information provider, the company she works for interacts mostly with various brands of baby products to develop co-organized activities (e.g., holding a baby crawling contest) as a promotion tool for both companies. For example, Bola’s tasks include negotiating deals with customers with...
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Hofstede, G. 2013. Dimensions of National Cultures. Available from http://geerthofstede.nl/dimensions-of-national-cultures.
House, R. J. et al, eds. 2004. Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Schneider, A. K. and J. G. Brown. 2013. Dynamic Negotiating Approach Diagnostic (DYNAD). Marquette Law School Legal Studies Research Paper, no. 13-11.
Schneider, A. K. 2012. Teaching a New Negotiation Skills Paradigm. Washington University Journal of Law & Policy. 39: 13-38.