Nonverbal Behaviors

Anthropologist Ray L. Birdwhistell demonstrated that less than 35% of the message in conversations is conveyed by the spoken word while the other 65% is communicated nonverbally. Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA psychologist, also parsed where meaning comes from in face-to-face interactions. He reports:

• 7% of the meaning is derived from the words spoken

• 38% from paralinguistic channels, that is, tone of voice, loudness and other aspects of how things are said

• 55% from facial expressions

Of course, some might quibble with the exact percentages (and many have), but our work also supports the notion that nonverbal behaviors are crucial - how things are said is often more important than what is said.

A second study provides analyses of some linguistic aspects and nonverbal behaviors for the 15 videotaped groups, that is, how things are said. Although these efforts merely scratch the surface of these kinds of behavioral analyses, they still provide indications of substantial cultural differences. Note that, once again, the Japanese are at or next to the end of the continuum on almost every dimension of the behaviors listed. Their facial gazing and touching are the least among the 15 groups. Only the Northern Chinese used the word no less frequently and only the Russians used more silent periods than did the Japanese.

A broader examination of the data in study 1 and study 2 reveals a more meaningful conclusion: The variation across cultures is greater when comparing linguistic aspects of language and nonverbal behaviors than when the verbal content of negotiations is considered. For example, notice the great differences between the Japanese and Brazilians.

Distinctive negotiation behaviors of 15 cultural groups

Following are further descriptions of the distinctive aspects of each of the 15 cultural groups videotaped. Certainly, conclusions of statistical significant differences between individual cultures cannot be drawn without larger sample sizes. But, the suggested cultural differences are worthwhile to consider briefly.

Japan. Consistent with most descriptions of Japanese negotiation behavior, the results of this analysis suggest their style of interaction is among the least aggressive (or most polite). Threats, commands and warnings appear to be de-emphasized in favor of the more positive promises, recommendations and commitments. Particularly indicative of their polite conversational style was their infrequent use of no and you and facial gazing, as well as more frequent silent periods.

Korea. Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the analysis is the contrast of the Asian styles of negotiations. Non-Asians often generalize about the Orient; the findings demonstrate, however, that this is a mistake. Korean negotiators used considerably more punishments and commands than did the Japanese. Koreans used the word no and interrupted more than three times as frequently as the Japanese. Moreover, no silent periods occurred between Korean negotiators.

China (Northern). The behaviors of the negotiators from Northern China (i.e., in and around Tianjin) were most remarkable in the emphasis on asking questions (34 percent). Indeed, 70 percent of the statements made by the Chinese negotiators were classified as information-exchange tactics. Other aspects of their behavior were quite similar to the Japanese, particularly the use of no and you and silent periods.

Taiwan. The behavior of the businesspeople in Taiwan was quite different from that in China and Japan but similar to that in Korea. The Chinese on Taiwan were exceptional in the time of facial gazing —on the average, almost 20 of 30 minutes. They asked fewer questions and provided more information (self-disclosures) than did any of the other Asian groups.

Russia. The Russians' style was quite different from that of any other European group and, indeed, was quite similar in many respects to the style of the Japanese. They used no and you infrequently and used the most silent periods of any group. Only the Japanese did less facial gazing and only the Chinese asked a greater percentage of questions.

Israel. The behaviors of the Israeli negotiators were distinctive in three respects. As mentioned above, they used the lowest percentage of self-disclosures, apparently holding their cards relatively closely. Alternatively, they used by far the highest percentages of promises and recommendations, using these persuasive strategies unusually heavily. They were also at the end of the scale on the percentage of normative appeals at 5 percent with the most frequent reference to competitors' offers. Perhaps most importantly the Israeli negotiators interrupted one another much more frequently than negotiators from any other group. Indeed, this important nonverbal behavior is most likely to blame for the "pushy" stereotype often used by Americans to describe their Israeli negotiation partners.

Germany. The behaviors of the Germans are difficult to characterize because they fell toward the center of almost all the continua. However, the Germans were exceptional in the high percentage of self-disclosures (47 percent) and the low percentage of questions (11 percent).

United Kingdom. The behaviors of the British negotiators were remarkably similar to those of the Americans in all respects. Most British negotiators have a strong sense of the right way to negotiate and the wrong. Protocol is of great importance.

Spain. Diga is perhaps a good metaphor for the Spanish approach to negotiations evinced in our data. When you make a phone call in Madrid, the usual greeting on the other end is not hola ("hello") but is, instead, diga ("speak"). It is not surprising, then, that the Spaniards in the videotaped negotiations likewise used the highest percentage of commands (17 percent) of any of the groups and gave comparatively little information (self-disclosures, only 34 percent). Moreover, they interrupted one another more frequently than any other group and they used the terms no and you very frequently.

France. The style of the French negotiators was perhaps the most aggressive of all the groups. In particular, they used the highest percentage of threats and warnings (together, 8 percent). They also used interruptions, facial gazing and no and you very frequently compared with the other groups and one of the French negotiators touched his partner on the arm during the simulation.

Brazil. The Brazilian businesspeople, like the French and Spanish, were quite aggressive. They used the second-highest percentage of commands of all the groups. On average, the Brazilians said the word no 42 times, you 90 times and touched one another on the arm about 5 times during 30 minutes of negotiation. Facial gazing was also high.

Mexico. The patterns of Mexican behavior in our negotiations are good reminders of the dangers of regional or language-group generalizations. Both verbal and nonverbal behaviors were quite different than those of their Latin American (Brazilian) or continental (Spanish) cousins. Indeed, Mexicans answer the telephone with the much less demanding bueno (short for "good day"). In many respects, the Mexican behavior was very similar to that of the negotiators from the United States.

French-Speaking Canada. The French-speaking Canadians behaved quite similarly to their continental cousins. Like the negotiators from France, they too used high percentages of threats and warnings and even more interruptions and eye contact. Such an aggressive interaction style would not mix well with some of the more low-key styles of some of the Asian groups or with English speakers, including English-speaking Canadians.

English-Speaking Canada. The Canadians who speak English as their first language used the lowest percentage of aggressive persuasive tactics (threats, warnings and punishments totaled only 1 percent) of all 15 groups. Perhaps, as communications researchers suggest, such stylistic differences are the seeds of interethnic discord as witnessed in Canada over the years. With respect to international negotiations, the English-speaking Canadians used noticeably more interruptions and no's than negotiators from either of Canada's major trading partners, the United States and Japan.

United States. Like the Germans and the British, the Americans fell in the middle of most continua. They did interrupt one another less frequently than all the others, but that was their sole distinction.

These differences across the cultures are quite complex and this material by itself should not be used to predict the behaviors of foreign counterparts. Instead, great care should be taken with respect to the aforementioned dangers of stereotypes. The key here is to be aware of these kinds of differences so that the Japanese silence, the Brazilian "no, no, no...," or the French threat are not misinterpreted.

In addition to the 15 cultures which have been discussed; below is an excerpt on negotiation approaches within the Mediterranean.

"The Mediterranean culture is altogether warmer.

Warm greetings and social aspects. Exuberant uses of postures and gestures. difficulty in pinning discussions down to particular deals or particular phases of negotiation.

In some regions, deals need to be 'lubricated'. Indeed, this question of 'lubrication' is central to the cultures of some Mediterranean countries. It is seen as a normal practice and does not have the repulsive character of 'bribery'.

The approach to negotiation in these cultures needs to retain the types of discipline we have been discussing; and yet to be conscious of the need for lubrication. Since no respectable western company would wish to be associated with the practice of bribery, the need is to secure a local agency and to ensure that that agency handles the lubrication."

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