THE IMPACT OF THE «NATIONAL CHARACTER» IN DIPLOMATIC NEGOTIATIONS
The diplomatic negotiation is naturally a confrontation of different nations that he diplomats of two or more culturally distinct countries come together to achieve peaceful and legitimate results on an issue of their interests. Although it seems to be a value-free process as diplomats negotiating according to rational-choice as in all human activity, negotiations are affected by the characters of nations. This essay aims to express the importance of negotiation for nations and the inevitable influence of the national culture over the negotiation. It includes an account of the discussion between scholars who provide have distinct perspectives about the issue, it asserts the different dimensions of culture and the degree of their effect over various components of negotiations, it gives research results on the different approaches of nations to negotiation process and makes comparisons with the help of some case studies. The essay ends with some suggestions to overcome the problems of cultural disharmony in a negotiation. The final inference of the study is that the influence of national character over negotiations determines the conduct of negotiations and must not be overlooked although it brings some technical and research difficulties.
The structural components of a negotiation that are influenced by culture are the legal framework and the organisational setting of it. Some structural aspects such as the number of negotiators representing a party in the negotiation is related to the national culture. For example Chinese party composes of fifteen to thirty people while the foreign teams have three to five negotiators. On the other hand, in the situation of unequal power, some cultural features may balance the power distribution: The Chinese buyers are always superior to the sellers in a business negotiation, the Communist Party of former USSR was always right and in traditional African villages the last word in a negotiation belongs to the eldest person.
Cultural analysis of a negotiation should not be an excuse of the failures but must be taken as variables to maintain harmonic relations between nations. It is crucial to find some ways to overcome the problems namely the dissonances between the negotiating nations caused by the cultural conflict. The representatives of a state should be educated that they could tolerate the differences, reduce the disharmony and try to eliminate the misunderstandings.
Salacuse suggests four rules and several ways to cope with the dissonance caused by the cultural conflict during the negotiation process:
*To Learn the Other Side’s Culture: It is important to be aware of the general principles of the interlocutor’s culture, history, anthropology and about their negotiating style to develop a proper approach in the negotiating table.
*Not to Stereotype: Over-reliance on the knowledge of the other side’s culture may mislead the negotiator because the people are not “cultural robots” and their behaviour is shaped by many other parameters. Not every person of a nationality behaves in the same way.
*The negotiator has to be aware of his/her own culture and how others may perceive it. The negotiator thus may try to harmonize the conflicting sides of the two negotiating styles.
*Instead of perceiving the cultural differences as an obstacle, a weapon or a fortress a negotiator should take them as gaps between parties and try to bridge them in several ways. This can be done by using the other side’s culture to arouse sympathy, by persuading and inducing the other side to adopt elements of their own culture, by making a combination of both cultures to reach an integrated approach and by applying a third culture that is appreciated and interested in common by the two parties.
National character and culture are regarded to be vague concepts and rejected to be used as an element of negotiation analysis by some scholars but the general view is that there is a non-ignorable effect of culture over the process of negotiation contributing the success and failure of them. Negotiators are human beings are products of their societies and their beliefs, values, perceptions and so behaviours are oriented by their national culture. Nations develop distinct negotiating styles according to their national character, political system and current position. These distinct styles of nations determine the approach to engage in negotiations and certainly influence the process and the result. Culture is not “epiphenomenal” but it has a real effect over the negotiation. As such strong effect of globalisation did not remove the cultural differences between nations -even deepened them in some aspects-, these differences will continue to influence the negotiating process too. Ignoring the cultural effect in negotiation studies will be a mistake and deficiency however it is still a challenge to examine how much and in what ways do national characters effect the international negotiations.