Effective ways to negotiate with international partners

Effective ways to negotiate with international partners
Gayatri Panda
Gayatri PandaThemis Technologies

Posted: Thu 14th Mar 2024

"In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity," said Sun Tzu in The Art of War.

This insight resonates, particularly in the context of cross-cultural negotiations. These negotiations present a unique set of challenges, but they also open doors to new possibilities.

You might be concerned about making unintended mistakes or doing something embarrassing during an important negotiation. However, by using some basic negotiation skills, you can overcome these fears. You can change how you approach international negotiations and better understand how to handle cross-cultural situations.

Let's explore these essential skills that you can easily put into practice, making cross-cultural negotiations less scary and more manageable.


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Understanding who's who

Negotiations are akin to forming a team, with each participant playing a crucial role in advancing or impeding the deal. Like in team dynamics, understanding the motivations and positions of individuals is vital. Some may be eager for an agreement, seeing its benefits, while others may hold reservations or oppose the deal.

For instance, in the 2015 United States-Iran Nuclear Talks, recognising the diverse issues at play, negotiators separated technical discussions from political ones. This strategic move allowed a focused approach to crucial elements without distraction.

Successful negotiation, mirroring effective team-building, demands a comprehensive grasp of stakeholders. Identifying influencers, decision-makers and potential dissenters allows negotiators to tailor their approach.

Be open to change

Adapting to different negotiation processes, especially in a cross-cultural context, can be challenging. However, embracing your counterpart's business practices, especially when negotiating in their home country, is crucial.

Similar to preparing for negotiations with a business, understanding and respecting the cultural nuances of your counterpart's company is essential for success.

Effective preparation for cross-cultural negotiations involves careful study and a willingness to adapt to new processes. By focusing on fundamental issues rather than fixating on the intricacies of the process, negotiators can navigate challenges successfully.

A notable example is the 2015 Paris Climate talks, where negotiators, despite being unfamiliar with the South African process called indaba, reached an agreement by preparing with the core negotiation principles in mind.

Negotiate important issues separately

In cross-cultural negotiations, showing respect to your counterpart is crucial. Focus on reaching mutually acceptable agreements by addressing the issues that matter to everyone involved. A helpful strategy is to separate different issues and negotiate them individually.

For instance, in the 2015 United States-Iran Nuclear Talks, negotiators recognised the importance of addressing both political and technical issues. They decided to have experts handle the technical aspects separately, allowing for focused discussions on each issue.

This approach prevents confusion and helps negotiators concentrate on key elements, ultimately leading to more effective and successful outcomes. In cross-cultural negotiations, simplicity and respect pave the way for better understanding and cooperation.

Make friends, not just deals

American negotiators often emphasise "getting down to business", a sentiment shared by negotiators globally, albeit not universally.

However, in many cultures, focusing solely on the negotiation's substantive issues overlooks a crucial social element that is essential for forging lasting deals.

A noteworthy example occurred during President Obama's visit to Buenos Aires when, at a state dinner, he was invited to join in a tango. Despite the unexpected nature of the request, the President readily participated, leaving a profound impact on the relationship between the United States and Argentina.

This incident highlights the importance of respectfully engaging in cultural activities to bridge gaps and enhance diplomatic ties, underscoring that successful negotiations extend beyond business matters alone.


Making deals across borders is like learning a new game. By being patient, understanding each other and being flexible, you can become a master at these cross-border negotiations. It's not just about making deals, it's about building relationships and making friends around the world.

Here are some excellent resources to learn negotiation:


Online courses

Coursera offers several negotiation courses, including Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills by the University of Michigan and Negotiation Skills by the University of California, Irvine.

LinkedIn Learning provides courses such as Negotiation Foundations and Advanced Negotiation: Closing Deals to help you develop negotiation skills at your own pace.


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Relevant resources

Gayatri Panda
Gayatri PandaThemis Technologies

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