Cross border negotiations are often complicated endeavors, especially when the negotiations are taking place between a Western culture like that of the U.S. and one of the East like that of Japan. Cultural and philosophical differences along with differences in tactics, perspectives and language can all complicate an all too often difficult process.
It was noted by the author of this reading that the Japanese negotiator will consider the conduct and actions of one American as representative of all Americans. This is due to the incredibly homogenous culture of Japan. Census data indicates that over 99% of the population of Japan are in fact Japanese, with the majority of the remainder being of Korean descent, and that over 80% of the Japanese people practice one of two religions. With such a consistent population, it can be argued that there is little diversity to be found in the Japanese way of life. Japanese are likely to assume that other cultures are similar in nature to their own and therefore feel that one individual, or small group of individuals, would be a fair and accurate representation of their respective culture at large. This raises problems in negotiations because often times Japanese will expect one type of individual and not be prepared for someone who is unique, or a group that is diverse. Perhaps the best way to help a Japanese negotiator when s/he is presented with this problem is to avoid behavioral extremes. Make an attempt to behave in a reasonable and conservative manner and try to avoid creating a chaotic environment. Allow the Japanese to speak with one primary negotiator and try to conduct one’s self in a consistent manner.
When negotiating, Japanese strive for order and harmony while Americans go for the “win”. The Japanese attempt to create a relationship that will endure so as to ensure future business relations, they look at the complete picture and with the long-term ramifications in mind. It is important to remember to avoid direct confrontations during negotiations, as this approach is the polar opposite to Japanese philosophy and can result in insult or injury to the Japanese as well as failure in the negotiations. Be aware of differing perspectives and business theory and take into account how they may influence Japanese negotiators.
The Japanese will consider all options and take the time required to ensure a complete analysis of every aspect of proposed plan. Americans are notorious for their desire to solve an issue and move as rapidly as possible. Patience needs to be exercised in this situation and, if necessary, the American negotiator needs to use resolutions that have already been made as a bridge to creating more agreements.
It is also important to realize how language and translation barriers affect negotiations. It is extremely important to know not only what is being said, but also what is being interpreted and understood. Depending on the district a Japanese negotiator originates from may alter the meaning of a statement or an action and the American negotiator has to be aware of this possibility and ensure that everyone is on the same page.