Tips on managing confrontational international negotiations

Internal Conflict Image (CC) by Simon de Bakker

Successful negotiations, conflict resolutions and disagreements demand preparation. Comprehensive planning can be seen as undesirable and unnecessary for trivial conflicts; on the other hand, major conflicts require goal establishment, listing alternatives, and trade-off identification that will help negotiators fix the issue in a timely manner.

International negotiations are challenging due to various factors such as: cultural aspects, religion, traditions, character and personality and entire postgraduate courses are created to learn about international management. When dealing with individuals from other countries, confrontational situations may emerge. It can happen, especially if you share different opinions. Here are some tips to help you deal with conflict when bargaining internationally.

1 – Recognise Conflict Management as an important skill to develop

Learning about efficient negotiations to minimize confrontational situations and resolve conflict helps business people manage stressful scenarios a lot better. Exposure to constructive behaviours, positive mind-sets and well-thought strategies are often linked to successful negotiations.

Depending on the situation, you can avoid, confront, accommodate, collaborate or compromise – it’s up to you to choose and make the most of that choice. Find a way to build confidence, and use the most creative approaches to make others relate to whatever you have to say.

There are a number of conflict resolution styles which you can develop and customise to your needs. Conflict resolution techniques as those developed for your own team can also help you to think about international negotiations, such as the Interest-Based Relational Approach: 


2 – Preparation is key when dealing with international negotiations

Preparation: a woman focuses on her workout Image (CC) by Nathan Rupert
Preparation: a woman focuses on her workout
Image (CC) by Nathan Rupert

In some cultures, the actual negotiation comes at the end of a business meeting. Not knowing that will cost you. Time is flexible in many cultures, so it’s important to remain calm and be prepared. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Know more about the negotiation style of your opponents from a cultural point of view – link negotiations to that country’s history and background (never forget that history makes the people)
  • Are your opponents laid-back and relaxed, or do they seem tense? – don’t play with fire and try not to use humor if opponents are overly formal
  • Showcase your curiosity – If you’re negotiating in a country you’ve never been before, highlight that aspect. Ask about places of interest, restaurants, accommodation. This will cool the atmosphere and everyone will feel more relaxed

3 – Patience is paramount when dealing with tense international negotiations

Business talk, Image (CC) by  Wolfgang Lonien
Business talk, Image (CC) by Wolfgang Lonien

Typical business people from the US are used to flying across the world with a sole intention in mind – to sign a deal. That’s not always a good business attitude. Flexibility and patience are paramount.

Rushing things and persuading opponents to sign a contract may trigger redundant reactions from the opposition. Deals that may usually take 2 days to close in the US, may take up to 10 days to close in Asian or Arab countries.

4 – Anger should be used constructively

Controlling anger before it controls you... Image (CC) by Min-Yoon Cheah
Controlling anger before it controls you… Image (CC) by Min-Yoon Cheah

Anger is an extremely common feeling in the business environment, and that’s mainly because people don’t always share the same opinions. Not everyone can use anger constructively though, and in many cases the end result is not positive at all. Efficient bargaining skills can help curtail the impact of a confrontational situation.

First, you must identify what exactly triggered your anger; next, you must assess personal biases and view things from an objective perspective.

In order to function well in tough scenarios, you must find a way to diffuse anger and focus on a beneficial outcome.

5 – Define your negotiation style

Negotiation Cartoons: Positions Vs. Interests Image (CC) by  jonny goldstein
Negotiation Cartoons: Positions Vs. Interests Image (CC) by jonny goldstein

Prior to starting a negotiation, it’s important that you define your negotiation style. Know your BATNA and settle on a plan that can help you close the best deal. It’s equally important to get to know your opponents as well.

While business individuals from Asian and Arab countries can be extremely patient, we can’t say the same thing about people from the US and Canada. Your style should define your business personality. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Know your numbers – for a business negotiation to succeed, it must be backed up by solid information. Know the ins and outs of your company, and be ready to answer questions. Since you’re dealing with international negotiations, conflict may arise. You can always avoid such situations as long as you hold solid information.
  • Know the competition – it can be tough to “read” foreign negotiators. Their ideas, principles and main beliefs may be completely different from yours.
  • Know when to back off – just because you flew 20 hours to get to get to a business meeting in Tokyo, it doesn’t mean that a deal will be closed. There are chances for negotiations to fail. If an offer can’t bring enough benefits to your company, it’s best to say “no” and walk away.

Managing confrontational negotiations is tough. Beginners may require negotiation training to help them surpass dreadful circumstances. Whatever happens, it’s vital that you stay calm.

Never lose your temper, and never allow an opponent (foreign or not) get under your skin. Stay professional and don’t hesitate to reject a deal if it doesn’t benefit your business.

By Davis Miller and!

About Aleksej Heinze

Passport to Trade 2.0 project leader. My research interests are in the area of disruptive innovation using information technology (IT) and the use of IT in business management. Topics include: enterprise 2.0; web 2.0, international business culture, search engine optimisation, and social media marketing.