Importance of Multicultural Communication in International Negotiations. In an increasingly globalized world, it is necessary to know the different languages, cultures, customs, religions and their importance when doing business. There is a great opportunity to grow and reach new markets in multiple countries and language and cultural barriers should not be an impediment to achieving this. The opening to multicultural communication opens doors to new markets, new business opportunities and, although it is not a guarantee of this, it can even increase sales, since it facilitates the expansion of horizons and allows communication between individuals overcoming language and culture barriers.
If you want to grow as a company, it is essential to open up to new markets in different countries and this implies mastering their languages and cultures. Intercultural relations are highly influenced by the different customs, religions and thought patterns of people. When doing business, it is essential to take certain factors into account to respect these cultural differences and for the negotiations to be successful, these are:
- Language: The language is the most important factor when making international negotiations, you should always ensure that there is the best communication and understanding between all parties. It is known that the most used language par excellence in the world of work is English, but this is no longer enough. When doing business with foreign clients, they must be treated with excellence, simplifying the negotiation process and allowing them to feel heard. This is why, if the client requests it, it is essential to reach him in his own language.
- The greeting: It is always important to investigate what the traditional greeting is in the country of the person with whom you are negotiating. In most countries the most accepted greeting is the handshake, however others have their own traditional greetings. In certain Asian countries it is greeted with a slight nod, in India joining hands and placing them under the chin, in Arab countries the right hand is usually offered and continue with two or three alternate kisses on each cheek. It is always best to find out what is used in the country of each of the participants and try to make everyone feel comfortable.
- Time: The way in which time is perceived and invested can vary from one country to another. As far as punctuality is concerned, in South America and the Mediterranean there is some flexibility in delays while in North America, Europe or Japan punctuality is taken for granted. The value of time is also a factor that varies from one country to another, in North America it is expected to complete the negotiation process as quickly as possible. However, in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, they prefer to take the time to get to know each other more and build a relationship of trust.
- Body language: Body language is one of the most powerful tools in communication. The meaning of different gestures can vary greatly depending on the culture, therefore, when it comes to international negotiations, it is essential to take this into account in order to avoid misunderstandings. Another basic aspect of body language in different countries is distance. You should know in which countries it is preferred to keep a distance between people, or on the contrary, in which countries closeness is preferred since it is seen as a symbol of trust.
- Casual conversations: Casual conversations or in “small talks” are those that are held between negotiations in order to break the ice and get to know each other between participants. In some countries this type of conversation is very common, such as in France, Canada, the United States and Australia. However, in countries like Sweden, Japan and Germany they prefer to focus only on the topic of the meeting.
- Humor: Humor can be a double-edged sword in intercultural negotiations, it can help create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere or it can create an unpleasant situation. Cultural and religious differences can make it difficult for interlocutors to understand jokes, therefore, one must be careful with the humor and jokes that are going to be used.
- Gifts: For many, gifts are an important element of the negotiation, but it is necessary to know what gift to give to whom. In some Asian countries, it is customary to exchange gifts, and refusing gifts to the other party at the beginning of negotiations can be considered an insult. However, in Western countries if a gift is given, it should always be of little value so as not to be perceived as a bribe.
- Religion: Religion is one of the most touchy and sensitive issues, so it is best to avoid commenting on these issues during negotiations. It is also important to know the basics of these religions to understand the ideas and behaviors of the people with whom we are trying to negotiate.
It is important to mention that in multilingual and multicultural negotiation processes it is recommended to have the professional services of native interpreters who dominate not only the linguistic but also cultural aspects. A good interpreter, who knows both cultures and languages, should serve as a “bridge” or cultural broker advising their clients on the above aspects.