Contact: Meaghan Pierannunzi, USIP Press
202-429-4736; mpierannunzi@usip.org

1. What is the Cross-Cultural Negotiation project and series?

In the early 1990s, the United States Institute of Peace initiated a series of conceptual and country-specific assessments on the theme of cross-cultural negotiating (CCN) behavior. In addition to the present volume, twelve book-length studies have since been published. Three of these are conceptual studies (Negotiating across Cultures; Culture and Conflict Resolution; Arts of Power). Seven focus on individual countries (Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, Japan, France, Germany), and two explore specific bilateral negotiating relationships (the Israeli-Palestinian and the Indian-Pakistani relationships). These books reflect the Institute’s conviction that negotiating approaches to international conflict resolution, as well as less adversarial diplomatic or business encounters, will achieve greater success when negotiators from different nations and cultures better “read” the intentions of their counterparts across a green baize table. Future country studies are in the works, including one on Pakistan.

The rationale for comparing negotiating behaviors across cultures is straightforward: negotiating is a preferred method of international problem solving, governments manage and conduct negotiations in different ways, and knowledge of those differences will allow official to better prepare for and manage negotiating encounters.

2. Does culture affect the negotiation process?

While some claim that culture is irrelevant in international diplomacy, almost all practitioners disagree. Diplomats have long shared a professional and international culture. Many experienced negotiators, both American and non-American, also see another culture at work: national cultures. This book is particularly concerned with the intersection of America’s national culture and its institutional culture (i.e., the structures, norms, and behavioral predispositions of U.S. government agencies such as the State Department, especially the Foreign Service). This book contends that the shared national background and institutional context of U.S. negotiators does exert a significant and recognizable impact on many facets of negotiating encounters and that the behavior of American negotiators reflects to some degree American cultural influences.

3. Why is the time ripe for a study on American negotiating behavior? Why is this volume important?

Negotiation is becoming more, not less, important as a tool of American foreign policy, and the nature of international negotiation is rapidly shifting in response to globalization, the emergence of problems that demand a collective response, and the weakening of the nation-state system and collective organization of international action. The global breadth of U.S. interests ensures that its negotiators are always engaged in a multitude of bilateral and multilateral settings. This volume provides American negotiators and their counterparts with a keener understanding of the stylistic traits and institutional processes that shape how foreign policies are formulated, implemented, and perceived.

4. How do you describe the American negotiator?

The portrait of the American negotiator is complex. This volume argues that four distinctive mind-sets or professional perspectives have combined to shape U.S. negotiating behavior:

  • a businessperson’s pragmatism and interest in securing concrete results from a negotiation;
  • a lawyer’s concern with careful preparation, precision, and binding commitments;
  • a superpower’s inclination to dictate terms, adopt take-it-or-leave-it attitudes, and flex its muscle in pursuit of national interests; and,
  • a moralizer’s sense of mission, self-worth, and inclination to sermonize.

At the heart of American negotiating behavior, ironically, lies a deep ambivalence about negotiation itself. On the one hand, businesslike and legalistic impulses combine to make American officials inclined to sit down and solve problems, reach deals, and negotiate with the confidence that both sides can reap concrete and mutual benefits from an agreement. On the other hand, moralistic and hegemonic impulses make U.S. officials reluctant to negotiate with foreigners, especially those whose beliefs and behavior go against American mores or values. Indeed, they may be skeptical of the need for give-and-take and compromising given America’s substantial economic, political, and military resources. The relative weight of these four mind-sets varies from negotiation to negotiation and administration to administration. Yet this quartet of impulses transcends political ideology and personal predilection. In short, sometimes one or another tendency predominates; more often, they coexist. The result is a negotiating style that is highly professional but also pushy, informal but also urgent, cordial but also blunt, calculating but also given to sermonizing.

5. How does the nature of the U.S. government’s political and bureaucratic system influence the negotiating process?

The American negotiating process is strongly shaped by the nature of the government’s political and bureaucratic system, with intense interagency rivalries waged to win the ear of the president--whose authority is considerable yet circumscribed by congressional influences, public opinion, and private-sector interest group pressures. Shifts in the fluid constellation of bureaucratic or political forces within Washington can undermine an interagency consensus on the goals of an ongoing negotiation. As a result, American negotiators often find themselves pressured to increase demands or call for renegotiation of a deal already reached with their foreign counterparts. This phenomenon of “moving the goalposts” or objectives of a negotiation is highly characteristic of American diplomacy.

6. How does the media affect U.S. negotiating efforts and style?

U.S. officials may feed stories to journalists and “spin” coverage in efforts to shape perceptions of U.S. policy objectives and of the process of an ongoing negotiation. Yet such efforts are sporadic, rarely amounting to a media campaign, in part because the media are independent actors and are seen as unpredictable and uncooperative, and in part because the U.S. side expects to succeed at the bargaining table regardless of media coverage.

7. How is the world of international negotiation evolving in the twenty-first century? What challenges lie ahead for the American negotiator?

This volume lists five forces that are particularly powerful in reshaping not just the field of negotiation, but the entire diplomatic landscape:

  • Many of the problems and dangers now confronting the world can be dealt with only by a collective response from the international community.
  • Many of these growing problems require not just collective action but also nonmilitary--especially negotiated--solutions. The military remains an essential component of American national security, but the military itself sees the need for a readjustment of its relationship with the civilian and diplomatic elements of America’s foreign policy apparatus.
  • The international environment is growing more complex as the Westphalian nation-state system weakens under the impact of the forces of globalization, the rise of politically activated mass publics, and the emergence of subnational and supranational groups empowered by new technologies.
  • The number of civilian agencies involved in many negotiations is growing in response to the multifaceted complexity of the issues under discussion. When it comes to setting negotiating strategies and, in many cases, to implementing them, State Department personnel are increasingly likely to be working alongside people from the Treasury, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, various intelligence agencies, the Department of Energy, and so forth. Many issues require highly specialized expertise, and much of this has to be brought in from outside the government in the form of technical experts recruited from academia, research organizations, and the business world.
  • The global balance of power is shifting. American political and economic power is losing its relative preeminence as new centers of power grow stronger. Emerging realignments in economic and military power and in cultural influence will shape America’s ability to respond to changing global circumstances and will require American diplomacy to shoulder more of the burden of defending and advancing U.S. national interests throughout the world.

8. How must American negotiating behavior evolve to remain effective?

If U.S. officials are to perform effectively in the coming decades, negotiators from all levels of government need to supplement their use of political, economic, and military resources with greater attention to building relationships with officials from counterpart governments and with greater self-awareness of American negotiating characteristics as they influence diplomatic encounters.

To enhance America’s negotiating capacities in the future, the United States must

  • determine what can and cannot be changed in America’s negotiating practice;
  • adapt the training of Foreign Service officers to twenty-first century requirements;
  • improve the Foreign Service’s institutional memory (recording and assessing negotiating encounters);
  • foster greater interagency collaboration;
  • increase the human resource capacity of the State Department (in part through enhanced budgets);
  • add to the mix of diplomats more political negotiators—that is, former elected officials adept at operating in environments with multiple actors and skilled in navigating Washington’s complex politics and institutions; and
  • heightening self-awareness, “knowing oneself,” in the interest of understanding how American culture and institutional processes influence negotiating behavior.

Latest Publications

Mona Yacoubian on the State of Play in Syria

Mona Yacoubian on the State of Play in Syria

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

By: Mona Yacoubian

Mona Yacoubian discusses the state of play in Syria ahead of important withdrawal deadlines this week for removing heavy weapons from Idlib province. Yacoubian also discusses the waves of migration forced by the crisis, noting that 2018 has been the worst year to date for internally displaced Syrians; and the recent news that U.S. special operations forces are likely to remain in the country indefinitely to prevent a possible re-emergence of ISIS.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Participatory Action Research for Advancing Youth-Led Peacebuilding in Kenya

Participatory Action Research for Advancing Youth-Led Peacebuilding in Kenya

Thursday, October 11, 2018

By: Illana M. Lancaster; Sahlim Charles Amambia, Felix Bivens, Munira Hamisi, Olivia Ogada, Gregory Ochieng Okumu, Nicholas Songora, Rehema Zaid

One-third of today’s generation of youth—those ages ten to twenty-four—live in fragile or conflicted countries and are susceptible to the sway of ideological narratives of violent extremism. Evidence suggests, however, that they also play active and valuable roles as agents of positive and constructive change.

Youth; Education & Training; Democracy & Governance; Violent Extremism

Pakistan Pursues a ‘Reset’ in U.S. Relations

Pakistan Pursues a ‘Reset’ in U.S. Relations

Friday, October 5, 2018

By: USIP Staff

Even with U.S.-Pakistani relations badly frayed over the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s new government wants to seize an opportunity for a political solution of that war, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said October 3. A “new convergence” of thinking among the Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. governments is creating much of that opportunity, Qureshi said at USIP in his first visit to the United States under the two-month-old government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications