Negotiations across cultures

Anush Yepremyan

I am taking negotiations class this semester and I absolutely love it. I find it fascinating to observe how people behave when negotiating and how cultures clash. After all, it all comes down to cultural background, values, beliefs, experience and the general context of the negotiation.

I grew up in two different environments: I was born in Armenia but I grew up in Ukraine. So my Armenian roots say that collaborative efforts where both parties win are the key to success. However, my Ukrainian spirit reminds that a personal network and connections play a big role.

Will you agree with the statement that life is one continuous negotiation, and negotiation is an integral part of life? We are involved in negotiations every day without even realizing it.

At the university, I was the monitor of my class and the leader of a student organization. When doing mutual projects, we would negotiate which idea should be brought to life. To be honest, it was challenging sometimes.

As a leader, I would carefully listen to everybody’s ideas and emphasize the common needs. At the end, we would take a little bit of each individual’s idea and create an alternative, which would bring mutually satisfying agreements.

In Armenia and Ukraine, there is a very close bond between relatives and friends. It is sometimes impossible to say “no” because of that close relationship.

For example, my sister and I were doing photography in Ukraine, and my friend asked us to take pictures of her new clothing line collection. We have been friends for five years, and it is not common in Ukraine to charge friends. Usually they pay you back or do a favor later.

Of course, time is money, but maintaining relationship and goodwill was more important. However, there was a mutual advantage: we did her photo shoot with no fee, but she advertised our services. In the end, it was a give-and-take deal.

I have a very competitive nature. Sometimes I push my interests and try to win the most benefits. In Ukraine, we have Barabashovo market, which is the biggest market of eastern Ukraine and the 14
th biggest market in the world.

Here you can find anything you wish for, starting from tools and ending with jewelry. You can also practice how well you can bargain. I was trying to buy a leather jacket. Each place had different prices for the same model. I found a pretty good deal on it, but I thought I could make it even better. I started bargaining with the store assistant. The second I turned around to leave, she agreed to sell the jacket for the half of the price she initially offered. Isn’t it great? That is the beauty of bargaining!

People are different – goals and issues are different – and certain cultures require a unique approach. I think good negotiator applies more than just one negotiation style to the negotiation. It is important to work through the list of goals and decide which issues are best to: solve, compete, compromise, avoid, accommodate.