Question 1: Discuss the relative use of nonverbal behaviours, such as salient periods, interruptions, facial gazing, and touching, by people from various cultural backgrounds. How does this behaviour affect the negotiation process in a cross-cultural context?
Nonverbal communication is an integral part of our communication. However, it is often ignored in the formal framework of business interactions especially by people from Western cultures. In a cross-cultural context this approach may be highly misleading, because people from different cultures give different weights to verbal vs. nonverbal communication. Thus, if Italians tend to express their emotions through gestures, Germans or Dutch emphasize more direct verbal communication style. Different ways to use nonverbal communication not only may lead to frustration, but also jeopardize the whole process of negotiations. It is especially apparent in the situations, when the same nonverbal behaviour has different meaning across cultures. Thus, eye contact is a necessary attribute of a Western negotiator. Eye contact attempts to establish connection between the parties, while looking away may be perceived as an attempt to hide something, and therefore can create tension between negotiators. In some Asian cultures, on the other hand, eye contact is considered disrespectful. Inability to understand the differences in meanings of the eye contact between people from Asia and Europe may lead to major problems in negotiations and hamper decision-making in the cross-cultural context (Blatner, 2009).
Question 2: What are some of the differences in risk tolerance around the world? What is the role of risk propensity in the decision-making process?
Risk tolerance refers to the way people in a particular culture accept deviations from the expected. It greatly influences the process of decision-making and varies across cultures. Thus, Americans tend to have the highest tolerance for risk, while the tolerance of people from Germany and Belgium is much lower. Risk tolerance affects several steps of the decision-making process, such as problem-definition, data gathering and the consideration of alternatives. People with higher risk propensity tend to favour decisions, which have lower probability for success but are characterized by higher potential rewards. The difference in risk propensity and risk tolerance may significantly hamper negotiations if the parties have diverging expectations regarding the acceptable risk both in major strategic decisions and in minor incremental changes. Therefore, it is important to continuously emphasize the primary objectives of the negotiation process and to search for a position, which can satisfy the risk attitudes of both parties.
Question 3: Explain the differences in culturally-based value systems relative to the amount of control a person feels he or she has over future outcomes. How does this belief influence the decision-making process?
The perceived amount of control over future outcomes or the locus of control represents an important factor, which influences the decision-making process and differs across cultures. Thus, American managers believe that they possess a significant control over future events, while in Malaysia, for example, many problems are attributed to the “outside forces”. The difference in the attitudes to control is reflected in all stages of the decision-making process, including problem definition, since some aspects will not even be considered a problem in countries with external locus of control due to the perceived inability of finding a solution. The difference in the locus of control also impacts the incremental decisions during negotiations, since internal locus implies the need to establish more control mechanisms, while cultures with external locus focus on mitigating the negative effects of the unexpected events, rather than on their prevention. Inability to find common definition of a problem or the misalignment of the definition of control can hinder negotiations already on the very first stage and require profound understanding of the peculiarities of cross-cultural context and the ability to find compromises.
Blatner, A. (2009, June 29). About nonverbal communications. Retrieved from http://www.blatner.com/adam/level2/nverb1.htm