Communication and Negotiation in a Multicultural Environment

8 March 2019
By: Rosa Chorro

We spend the day negotiating

Sometimes we don’t even notice, because it’s revealed through our eye movements or facial expressions, but nevertheless, we are negotiating. An article from BBC based on a study published in the magazine, Evolution and Human Behaviour, says that frowning is not to scare people away, but an intrinsic technique of negotiation to get what we want. The harder it looks like we are going to make it for the other person to convince us, the easier it will be to get what we want. So, if you frowned at any point today, you were actually negotiating.

But, there is another important aspect to take into consideration when trying to convince someone: culture. Where you are from and the places you have lived throughout your life all play a part. I’m from Spain, but over the past 15 years I have also lived in Germany, the UK, France, and the US. To be completely honest, the process of adaptation I had to go through was not always easy. For me, having most of my meetings on the phone in the US threw me off of my game at times. I was used to face-to-face meetings, where I had talked to vendors or partners, and could feel their reactions throughout the discussion. When I lived in Germany, every time I finished a project, I never expected a pat on the back, and most certainly didn’t listen out for a cheerful, “Good job!” They feel as if that kind of validation should be limited to children and is totally inappropriate in a professional environment. (As you know, it’s a totally different scene in the US, seeing that I’ve had someone respond with “Great idea!” after I simply said, “Good morning”). Also, for some countries in Latin America, it may be considered impolite to flat-out say, “no” to a request. That can be totally misleading if you don’t know how to read between the lines.

frowning is not to scare people away, but an intrinsic technique of negotiation to get what we want

On the Multicultural Side

Now, imagine being in a multicultural agency like PM3, with people from 11 different countries (mostly Hispanics) working at the same office in Atlanta. You could say “Oh, but y’all speak the same language.” Sí, but sometimes, that’s all we have; the way of negotiating, depending on our respective origins, can be completely different even though we say things like “taco” or “cerveza” the same way.

In advertising, we always focus on directly talking to the audience, to the consumer, to the target. But, it’s also crucial to give the same importance to the process in between. Just like anywhere else, each country has its own unique culture and way of conducting business. That’s why the more we know, talk, travel, and open our minds, the more successful we’ll be in communicating with each other.

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negotiation skills latin woman pm3 agency

Everything mentioned above is extremely relevant in regard to what our agency does on a daily basis. PM3 was founded in order to help businesses successfully advertise and market to the growing Hispanic population in the US. That was over 15 years ago and guess what? As this very moment, their sprouting community is currently the fastest growing demographic in the US. That’s why, in order for us to continue accomplishing our job on a daily basis, we have to understand how to negotiate with the US Hispanic population.

No different than our diverse office, this demographic hails from all over the world. Therefore, they communicate in varying ways relative to their respective countries and cities. So, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for us to bank on when crafting advertisements geared towards them. And if that hasn’t already made your head spin, we also have to take the many different Spanish dialects into account. What’s even more, is that every nationality of Hispanics has particular, seemingly normal Spanish words that are considered profane depending on where they’re from. I say all this, because even though I’m from Spain and have a wealth of cultural experience from around the world, it still takes a full team to ensure the ads we create will effectively negotiate with our target and not be misinterpreted.

As you can see

In order to successfully communicate, or negotiate, with our audience, we have to understand far more than just their language. That’s why, even though our office is diverse, we still have to work hard each day to effectively interpret every element of the evolving US Hispanic population. Otherwise, our agency’s work would be as well received as me throwing confetti after completing a task in Germany.

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