When I say negotiation I don’t mean the one that has to do with business deals or peace accords. Neither am I using the word to indicate anything that has to do with dispute resolution. Instead, I am using the word to explain the delicate process of negotiating the change – and a journey of making lots of very new and, sometimes, difficult choices.
When you arrive to another country and emerge yourself into another culture, you begin to notice that certain things are done differently. People might be routinely late to appointments whereas you are used to always being on time. People may drop by your office unexpectedly whereas you are used to scheduling these impromptu meetings. People may expect you to spell their responsibilities out for them – when you are expecting a healthy dose of initiative.
All these changes may throw you for a loop – and worse, they may really wreck havoc in how you perceive yourself and your ability to succeed in the new environment. After all, if you are constantly frustrated and if you are struggling to understand why things are not working the way they should, you’ll find yourself arguing with your saboteur a lot longer than you ever want to.
And that’s where negotiating across cultures comes in. This negotiation process is actually very simple and consists of 5 steps:
(1) Determine which cultural variable is responsible for the behavior that drives you crazy
(2) Identify where you are for this cultural variable on a cultural continuum
(3) Identify where most of your host country nationals are
(4) Determine if you have a large gap – and, if you do, (a) are you willing to change your behavior or (b) will you prefer for people around you to adjust to your habits (this depends on the value structure and if the variable in question is the reflection of your values/identity or habits/behaviors)
(5) Create an action plan.
This 5-step process comes from a module we developed for cross-cultural training with a coach-approach for our on-line cross-cultural courses.
What do you think?
And what other N’s are out there?
For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.
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