Cultural differences pose a major hurdle to international businesses, especially when negotiating business deals. Problems such as culturally-based misconceptions and unfamiliarity on both sides of the negotiating teams can be easily worked out with an in-depth research into each other’s culture, assimilating them and putting the findings to use on the negotiating table; such that a business negotiation between a Japanese businessman and his American counterpart will be fruitful.
A Japanese writer once described American negotiators as hard to understand, because ''they are not racially or culturally homogeneous''. Although it is not easy to define any cultural or national approach to negotiation, general assumptions are frequently made based on observations. However, there is no single right approach to negotiations; we can only talk about effective and less effective methods. These methods vary according to many factors, they include; time orientations, space orientations, non-verbal communication, power distance, uncertainty-avoidance, masculinity-feminity.
Two time orientations exist worldwide: monochromic and polychromic. Monochromic timing may be sequential, linear and involve focusing on one issue at a time. Both American and Japanese negotiators have these in common. Hence, they prefer brief meetings, timed breaks, a done deal with only one agenda, communication that is clear and easy to follow, they also perceive lateness as a blatant lack of respect.
Space orientations are different from culture to another. They are concerned with, territory, divisions between public and private and secure individual distance. Touching may convey closeness in some contexts and create offense in others. The American culture permits cross-gender touching, while same-gender touching is less tolerated. These rules are different in Japan. Here, women are often seen holding hands while men do not do so. For the Americans, eye contact is a sign of trustworthiness and reliability, while it is not so for the Asians. The act of looking to the ground when being spoken to is usually seen as a sign of respect. Japanese negotiators employ silence a lot in their negotiations while the Americans employ silence moderately. The Japanese negotiators had the tendency to focus on an interpersonal negotiating style. They stressed listening ability and verbal expressiveness. Their American counterparts, on the other hand, focused more on verbal ability, judgement and planning.
Negotiators vary in their persuasion styles; they rely on their comfort and emotionality. The American negotiator tends to appeal to logic, relying on objectivity. Japanese negotiators are very emotionally sensitive. They also tend to conceal their emotions. In essence, to have a successful business negotiation between the Japanese and American businessman, the two parties must keep to time as lateness is viewed strongly and could jeopardise the outcome of the negotiation. Also, the sits are arranged in such a way that they sit opposite each other or sit at an angle, the Americans are more comfortable with this. Touching or any form of contact is restricted to the barest minimum while a lot of nonverbal communication is expected; the Japanese negotiators employ silence a lot.
In conclusion, adopting the above strategy at business negotiations between a Japanese businessman and his American counterpart will reduce the legendary cultural conflicts encountered by these two and chart a successful business negotiation.
LeBaron, Michelle (2003). Culture-Based Negotiation Styles. Beyond Intractability. Accessed from