Intercultural Negotiations

The American and Japanese cultures are different on various grounds. First, Americans work for the company in pursue of success while Japanese work due to the loyalty to their organization. Second, Americans exercise low context while Japanese exercise high context communication. Third, Japanese put their emphasis on hierarchy while Americans put more emphasis on equality. Finally, individualism is much higher among Americans than it is among the Japanese (Gunia, Brett, Nandkeolyar, & Kamdar, 2011; Lee, Adair, & Seo, 2013). With all this in mind, a lot of cultural conflict is likely to be formed during negotiations between two managers from the two cultural settings. This paper seeks to analyze the possible issues that are likely to arise during such negotiations.\

Differences between the two Cultures

During negotiations, Japanese people are likely to identify gross violations of their values by Americans (Gunia, Brett, Nandkeolyar, & Kamdar, 2011). To Americans, however, the values may be unrecognized and meaningless at the point of their violation. Even when such violations are made, Japanese people fail to inform the Americans about them. Slight mistakes may be allowed, however, when failure and misunderstanding that cuts deep into the Japanese culture is experienced, negotiations may be stagnated or dismissed.

Japanese people value harmony in social settings for various reasons. First, Japan is surrounded by an ocean hence emphasizing its isolation. Second, Japan is highly populated which develops an unavoidable closeness of people to each other. Finally, the Japan community is homogeneous in nature (Lee, Adair, & Seo, 2013; Asada, 2007). In such a setting, the American manager is expected to take a harmonious position with respect to others. The Japanese try to minimize conflict in order to maintain harmony in the society. The Japanese try to maintain a highly vertical society (Burke, 2010). This is a society that is hierarchical in nature and helps to determine everyone’s position in the society.

The United States have high regard for equality. It is the nature of Americans to empathize the equality of power. With this regard, it is normal for Americans to bypass ranks to get the work done more efficiently and effectively. The Japanese on the other hand perceive power in the hierarchy context (Lee, Adair, & Seo, 2013). When conducting negotiations, the first thing Japanese people do is to locate their positions in the hierarchy system of their new setting. They therefore seek first to locate their social status with respect to the other parties in the negotiation. A relative position may be first obtained by analyzing the size of the negotiating companies. For similar sized companies, the Japanese may opt to look at who has a higher title and who is older. The Japanese regulations are clear cut and they know just which criteria to use to determine their relative rank. Since they are uncomfortable until they identify their rank, they find it difficult to accept the concept of equality.

In this context, the American manager is likely to seek to overreach his authority by seeking to contact someone higher than the current negotiator. In such a situation, the Japanese manager may feel disrespected hence limiting his negotiation capacity. The American would also fail to understand how the company would send him a representative who would have top correspond frequently to hid superiors to seek authority to perform certain activities. As such, the two companies would be less represented based on such misunderstanding.

The concept of time is also different. Americans have a time frame concept that emphasizes the present and the near future. In contrast, Japanese put more emphasis to the long term. These differences may be very impactful in the negotiations between the two managers (Burke, 2010; Joint, 2013). For instance, the American manager would strive to achieve set goals within a limited time by obtaining contracts. On the other hand, the Japanese manager would be more intent to create long-term relationships between the two companies. Japanese view businesses as timeless structures and themselves as history makers. They may even imagine the company a hundred years older. However, Japanese do not disregard immediate or short term profits. They value them, however, as benefits that will run in the long-term and not as one time profits (Joint, 2013).

Japanese social structures are believed to be fundamental to the society. They also make the Japanese language an other-controlled and other-controlling language (Gunia, Brett, Nandkeolyar, & Kamdar, 2011). Japanese is viewed as an indirect language unlike English, a self-controlled language. Being indirect is vital as it serves to maintain harmony amongst Japanese people. Japanese avoid voicing strong opinions, issues and views. Instead they use softened and roundabout phrases to prompt a discussion. This would leave room for the American to disagree so that he, the Japanese, can use this disagreement to make a future statement. This would help the Japanese to avoid offending his counterpart.

Americans consider the time spent by Japanese exchanging information to be too much. Standards of assertiveness and co-operation are unlike those of the Japanese. Japanese feel, on the other hand, that the maximum co-operation that an American is likely to offer is still below the required standards. The assertiveness of the American is may even be interpreted as aggressiveness. While both societies are likely to use collaboration to negotiate, the two negotiators may interpret each other’s collaboration differently.

To an American, this may seem like dishonesty. It may also be viewed as time wasting as the American would prefer the Japanese to react fast and respond more directly. The Japanese may view the American as careless with his words. This conflict if misunderstood could nurture a long-term misunderstanding between the two managers. If, however, the two managers understand the cultural background of each other, they stand a chance of doing their negotiation with ease and intended for success and for the long term.

Negotiation style among the Japanese

The negotiation process among the Japanese is more group centered (Peterson, & Søndergaard, 2008). Every group member prefers a more passive decision making mode. The members of such groups attempt to avoid making rash decisions while Americans attempt to save time by making decisions as promptly as possible. The Japanese decision making process has four general stages: nontask sounding, task-related exchange of information, persuasion and agreement (Peterson, & Sondergaard, 2008; Viswat, & Kobayashi, 2012). Japanese take longer in the first two stages. On the contrary, Americans tend to skip these stages of negotiation. Due to the fact Japan is densely populated, they tend to take their time obtaining information about their negotiators before conducting the negotiation itself. This prepares them by making them aware of the business culture within the negotiating company and its host culture. The company’s understanding helps to ensure that the business relationship that is prone to begin is going to succeed in the long term. This is unlike what an American manager would do. While the American may do a background check on the business to help him understand the nature of the company he is dealing with, his background check is often not as intense as that of the Japanese and is mostly oriented on the finance and performance of the company.

While Americans presume that a deal is a deal that is firmly bound, the Japanese view a deal as intention based in the context of a long-term association and believe that the relationship is more important than the terms of the agreement (Kaynak, & Herbig, 2014). From the perspective of an American, Japanese negotiate more ambiguously since they do not intend to hurt a relationship over a single deal. The Japanese do not find it crucial to reach an agreement at the end of the very first negotiation discussion (Singh, 2012). If an agreement is not reached, Japanese people may alter the subject of discussion or ignore it. They prefer not to interrupt their interpersonal relationships over an issue. Ascertaining one’s rank within a group is more valuable and important as well their association with the negotiating team. Americans emphasize the importance of focusing on issues rather than positions, and separating people from issues.

The American may therefore feel insulted in such a case and feel his time disregarded. If he does, he may find it necessary to end the discussions or suspend them. The relationship is violated by the very values that intend to protect it. Suspension of the negotiations may also lower the prospects of succeeding in the future and may make the Japanese to feel insulted by him. Understanding each other’s values and cultures would however serve to show the negotiators a need to adapt to certain aspects of each other’s culture. The American would see the change of subject as a cue to show the negotiations were failing. He would then seek to see if he could change his position in the negotiations. His participation in the changes topic could show his respect to the others hence laying a foundation for a future relationship between the two companies. On the other hand, the Japanese manager may be more open to the American by displaying more of his cards so that the American can know exactly how far in the negotiation he can get.

Americans also feel that Japanese do not clarify details at the table of negotiation (Kaynak, & Herbig, 2014). The process of negotiation among Japanese is often seen as dishonest by Americans who give their full information and hope for straightforward negotiation. The Japanese also put more weight on their trust of the negotiating party than on the information provided on the table. This lack of understanding may be explained on grounds of differences in priorities that are associated with the two cultures. Japanese initiate a negotiation by making an overall agreement first and then update it with details later.

When complications arise in the middle of a negotiation, the reactions by the two managers are bound to be different. The Japanese show less concern for deadlines while American managers are more time conscious and are easily pressured by deadlines. During disagreements, Japanese result to silence and vague statements while Americans become aggressive sooner. While Japanese often seek referrals from their superiors, Americans are bestowed with more on the spot authority to make decisions. Japanese tend to perform slower during crisis (Lee, Adair, & Seo, 2013). This causes misinterpretation and misunderstanding by Americans over, especially, their tendency to keep quiet. Americans often become aggressive sooner while trying to auto-argue their Japanese counterparts. Such arguments make Japanese feel threatened and victimized. Upon understanding each other’s cultures, the Japanese may be more sensible with his discussions. On the other hand, the American may request for time extension from his company so that he can have enough time to negotiate the deal with the company. He may also need to withhold his emotions as they are detrimental to the future of the two companies in business together.

Failure to understand each other’s reactions when complications arise may prevent progress from being made. It is necessary to have basic knowledge of each other’s business values and culture during cross cultural negotiations. The two managers also need to understand how language affects the process of negotiation since it is use as a tool of communication throughout.

The function of language in negotiation

Cross cultural negotiations normally adapt one of the languages as their tool of communication except in cases where the two negotiators share a mother tongue. Word meanings are not universal even in cases where words can be accurately translated into the other language. Even in cases where of people that use their native language, the word connotations are not the same in countries where the language is utilized. To some degree words and concepts are often culturally bound, and learning a language comprises both the surface meaning and the notion of the word (Simons, & Rowland, 2011). Some words show different notions and could cause misunderstanding between the parties.

Even if the actual word meaning is similar, various cultures and language may handle the word differently (Lee, Adair, & Seo, 2013). For example, Japanese people opt to maintain harmony by avoiding the word “no” in their conversations. For that reason the Japanese language provides more than sixteen ways of saying “no”. Non-natives however have a difficult time understanding these signals unless they are bicultural.

If the Japanese only used these signals while conversing in Japanese the problem is minimized (Mithel, 2012). However they tend to use the tactics even when the negotiations are done in English. In such cases the problem is maximized. This shows that natives often have to alter foreign language in accordance to their own language. The American manager would therefore need to learn these tactics even when negotiating in English. It is very difficult to show and explain sentence by sentence with these nuances without an entire discourse and a context. When translated to English, many examples may not make any sense.

The person whose language is being used should be aware of his colleague and hence provide an easy time by being slow during communication. This will help for both of them to communicate more easily. It will also contribute towards making sure that negotiations go through. Words that are clear and acceptable across both cultures should be shunned. If possible, the company should provide the managers with a translator who is well informed about the culture of Japan to provide necessary information during the discussions.

The Japanese mentality comprises of the concept of dependency. Since language use defines the mentality of its users, the American manager may need to learn how the concept of dependency is applied in Japanese. Understanding these concepts would imply that the two managers are able to communicate more easily with each other.

Development of business language courses

In the formulation of business language courses, research has been carried out to determine how the learning of a language can be maximized especially when intended for business. Simulations and role playing have been noted to be effective in creating more authenticity in learning languages. However, without background knowledge of the other party’s business culture, the classroom knowledge may become useless in the business context. Model dialogues such as self introduction, request for appointments and order confirmation, along with appropriate expressions obtained from the language can act as appropriate practical exercises (Kobayashi, & Viswat, 2014). However, handling a new language within a limited framework is similar to the memorization level except for its higher degrees of syntax and semantics. Limitations may be reached sooner if the dialogues are conducted between non-native speakers alone. If two Americans are negotiating, for example, in Japanese, they may prefer using the American tactics of negotiation even if they are armed with the knowhow of negotiating the Japanese way.

To resolve the above scenario, students of business languages should have access to native speakers on a regular basis. These native speakers should have a foundational knowledge in business to provide backing to the student in the form of advice and becoming an acceptable deal worker in the host country. While it is not possible to obtain classes where natives offer their services in language to the non-natives, the American managers should create their own alternatives upon entry into the new country.

Adjustments can be made to the training system of language instructors. However, few language instructors have experience making negotiations in their past. Learning business courses would enable language instructors to become better in arming business people with the much required knowledge of negotiation in the Japanese context. Immersion into the private business system could also help instructors become better at their job.

Most of the issues outlined above can be prevented by the intervention of the company. The issues arise as a result of conflicting cultures. The company should allocate the role of negotiation to someone who has a clear knowledge of both countries. One method that can be used to handle this situation is by adopting a training method that ensures the proper knowledge of the culture of destination. This way, the company stands to benefit from the cues that well be presented during the negotiations. The company also prevents the conflict that is likely to occur.


Both Japan and America are made up of their own basic business and social structures. As expressed priory, societies change a considerable measure focused based on the meanings that a culture places on a certain aspects of communication. The ideas of high culture societies and low context culture societies clarify the contrasts of how Japan and the United States value and translate messages relying upon nature’s domain and surroundings. Data about these questions that remain unanswered includes cases of reactions from Japanese and American agents after a clash amid arranging, and how they particularly could have determined the issue. However, whether Japanese people conduct business in the same way for both Japanese and Americans citizens has not been sufficiently covered. Taking everything into account, globalization is inevitable and the integration people into other cultures will help to lower the nature of conflicts. Most business negotiations are aimed at being mutually beneficial for both companies. The negotiations also have the capacity to make an impression in the economies in the form of taxes, and employment.

All things considered, each one instance of transaction differs from circumstance to circumstance yet knowing the general tenets and desires of others can help both Japanese and American agents to see each others’ methods for acting and considering. So as to proficiently understand what an alternate society is conveying in a business circumstance, one must give careful consideration to dialect. Understanding social undertones and being mindful of signs are two critical parts of correspondence among contrasting societies. As communicated in Yumi Adachi’s article about business arrangements in the middle of Americans and the Japanese, “Society in the business world is not the same as general society. Indeed local speakers of the dialect learn business conduct and practices, and agreeable society when they really take part in a genuine setting” (Adachi, 2010, p. 19). This announcement depicts the essentialness for both Japan and the United States to really secure the significance related in all parts of correspondence when leading business. Comprehension society in the business sense will consider a smoother arrangement between the United States and Japan.


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