intercultural negotiation

Compatibility and training of human resources for negotiation

Article translated from the text “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali”, copyright FrancoAngeli Editore and Dr. Daniele Trevisani Business Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission.

The ALM method

In every team there is a problem of selection (how to enter, what characteristics have those who enter) and training (how to grow team members). When the first phase is wrong, when people are poorly selected, mistakes have a chain effect. Training generally aims to increase existing performance and knowledge (incremental training), and is rarely used with the aim of acting in depth on the personality to change it (transformational training).

In the ALM method, we aim to draw on both models, but it is necessary to be aware that even the most incisive of transformational techniques does not change the genetic parameters, for example, and the selection of subjects remains important. In extreme environments, the American Institute of Medicine has begun to seriously study the “Crew performance breakdown” between astronauts forced to live together in a limited space for a long time. Many air and space accidents were caused by the dynamics of incommunicability between the crew (intragroup incommunicability) or between crew and other crews (crew: working groups, crews) – such as ground controllers – (intergroup incommunicability).

For these reasons, NASA’s Human Factors Research and Technology Division has included additional selection criteria to minimize the risks of intra-group incommunicability starting from the selection of human resources, thus evaluating not only scientific skills but also interpersonal and communication skills. This selection and adequate intercultural training are also considered indispensable for the space missions of the future characterized by intercultural crews. Furthermore, among the selection criteria, no longer only individual skills are evaluated, but an analysis of “compatibility” is carried out (compatibility with the group and the ability to live in the group).

In other words, it has been discovered that some astronauts can be excellent “astronauts” from a technical and scientific point of view, but unsuitable for dealing with diversity, sustaining a relationship with other cultures, and therefore cannot be part of multicultural space crews. A little annoying behavior, repeated for days on end, is enough to generate nervousness and irritation. For companies, there is an implication: (1) not everyone is fit to negotiate, and (2) even less so interculturally. Any intercultural communication mistake made by a salesperson operating abroad (eg: an area manager) or by an entrepreneur, can mean one less contract. Companies and organizations must be aware of this when choosing their commercial or institutional representatives.

Too often, product preparation is confused with an alleged ability to negotiate and communicate. The two are absolutely different. Intercultural negotiators must be properly selected based on their capacity for openness to different cultures, mental flexibility and communication skills, and not only on the basis of their business experience or product preparation.

Principle 2 – Selection of intercultural negotiators The success of intercultural negotiation depends on the organization’s ability to select, with respect to the parameters of:

  • openness to dialogue;
  • open-mindedness and ability to deal with diversity;
  • preparation on general negotiation techniques and openness to one’s own negotiation training as a development lever;
  • specific preparation on intercultural negotiation techniques and openness to one’s own intercultural training;
  • ability to draw on flexible and adaptive communicative repertoires, knowing how to adapt to the different cultures with which it has to interact.

So it doesn’t matter to be in a team of American, Chinese and Russian astronauts – in space – to deal with incommunicability and intercultural difficulties. Studies on intercultural communication affect everyone – schools, education, the family, the company. They explore, for example, new tools of intercultural mentorship (support for intercultural adaptation) and the strategies used by mentors to improve intercultural skills, or the problems of World Business and economic globalization, its implications on negotiation between people belonging to different cultures .

These studies analyze the problems of stereotypes, of changes in mutual perception caused by the experiences of direct interaction, of the frustration or confusion experienced in cross-cultural business interactions.

intercultural negotiation

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intercultural communication intercultural negotiation

Intercultural Negotiation. From Incommunicability to Constructive Communication

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Consulting Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for qualified Publishers wishing to consider it for publication in English and other language except for Italian and Arab. If you are interested in publishing or Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite 

The role of communication

Tracing a path that leads from incommunicability to constructive communication is a titanic undertaking, difficult to complete in a single life, a visionary goal, but also an engine of inspiration. But, however difficult, it deserves a commitment. In decades of scientific research and consultancy in the field, I have been able to experience the difficulty of people in communicating their thoughts, in understanding that of others, and the consequent difficulties of companies in cooperating.

At the same time, I have been able to see (like all of you) that, when communication works, the fruits immediately emerge. On the other hand, when communication is blocked or malfunctioning, conflict is created, interpersonal relationships suffer, common projects between people or between companies do not take off. We can trace with a good degree of precision the problem of incommunicability in cultural diversity – a “by-product” of the encounter / comparison between different cultures – an encounter that is as productive and full of opportunities for growth as it is open to risks and problems.

Culture – in the common sense – includes above all the artistic manifestations of a people, but in the social and managerial sciences it means much more. Culture, in a broader sense, above all means a way of perceiving the world, of categorizing reality, giving meaning to things, relationships, and life. Each of us is a unique individual in his personal culture, in the way of categorizing the world, assessing the importance of objects and people, setting up relationships. What is important and fundamental for me can be a detail for someone else, or for others something that doesn’t even deserve attention.

Each of us has assimilated the pressures and patterns of the groups to which they belong (ethnic, national, professional, family) into their own mental processes, and assimilates part of the models they come into contact with. Culture, according to Shore, can be considered a “collection of models”. In building a new relationship, in negotiating, what are the models I use? What models does my company use, often unconsciously? What are the models of others? The negotiation, even before a meeting between “positions”, of divergences / convergences on the details, is a meeting / clash between models.

With this volume I intend to offer a contribution that lays the foundations for both scientific and operational work, aimed at increasing the ability of people and companies to communicate with each other, aware of their differences, in order to grasp the best of the encounter between cultures. different without having to suffer the dark side of incommunicability and avoidable conflict.

Communicating aware of diversity – communicating in diversity and despite diversity – is a significant step forward. Having dealt with the basic themes in this volume, we will examine advanced techniques in future publications. Moreover, towers are not built without having first laid the foundations.

The repercussions of the “fundamental” tools shown here are potentially very strong, for those who work in companies (entrepreneurs, area managers and export managers), for the managers of projects and international relations, in the management of Human Resources (HR), but also for those who work in the social sector (therapists, counselors, educators), in an increasingly multicultural society.

The Four Distances Model for approaching Intercultural Negotiation

The model is based on the concept of relational distance: how people from different cultures can interact effectively or instead generate interactions based on conflict, incommunicability and misunderstandings, is strictly dependent from the feeling of “closeness” or “distance” that emerges in the interaction patterns between intercultural communicators. The 4 Distances Model, originally developed in the area of intercultural semiotics [1] defines the four main variables that can determine relational distance. Each variable has a subset of more specific hard-type (more tangible) and soft-type (more intangible) sub-variables:

  • D1 – Distance of the Self. Defined by D1A – Hard Distances: biological differences, chronemics-timing differences between communicators emissions/decoding/feedbacks; D1B – Intangible Distances: identity/role/archetype/personality differences;
  • D2 – Communication Codes Distances (Semiolinguistic Distance). Defined by D2A: communication content (hard variables); – D2B: codes, subcodes, signs, symbols, language communication styles (soft variables)
  • D3 – Ideological and value distance: differences in: D3A core values, core beliefs, ideologies, worldviews (hard variables) and D3B peripheral attitudes and beliefs (soft variables)
  • D4 – Referential distance (personal history); D4A – experience with external world objects, physical experiences (hard variables); D4B internal sensations world, emotional past and present (soft variables)

Each of these “Distances Factor” can be determined by means of observation, psychometric measurements, nonverbal content-analysis and verbal content-analysis. The model has proven to be useful in the analysis of intercultural communication critical incidents, incidents due to intercultural communications misunderstanding, as in the International Space Station case[2] and in reducing misunderstanding in Intercultural Research & Development Engineering Teams.[3]

  1. ^ Trevisani, D. 1992. A Semiotic Models Approach to the Analysis of International/Intercultural Communication; published in “Proceedings of the International and Intercultural Communication Conference”, University of Miami, fl., USA, 19–21 May 1992
  2. ^ Stene, Trine Marie; Trevisani, Daniele; Danielsen, Brit-Eli (Dec 16, 2015). “Preparing for the unexpected.”. European Space Agency (ESA) Moon 2020-2030 Conference Proceedings. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4260.9529
  3. ^ Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania, by Gudauskas, Renaldas; Jokubauskiene, Saulė, et. al. “Intelligent Decision Support System for Leadership Analysis”, in Procedia Engineering, Volume 122, 2015, Elsevier. DOI link: – Pages 172-180


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© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other language except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or in Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite 

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