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International negotiations and ethnic conflict situations come with intangible components that are difficult to identify and define: identity and culture. Any mediation or negotiation process will have to take these crucial aspects into account to mitigate the chance of failure. There has previously been a general neglect to incorporate aspects of culture in the domain of conflict resolution, both in academic discussion and among professional practitioners. However, with the coming of the new millennium, culture and identity asserted their place in academic studies and literature, which is reinforced in the curriculums of conflict resolution across universities by devoting at least one module entirely to the intersection of culture and negotiation. The notion of culture has been understood in two major ways, both distinct from each other. The first view stems out of the early enthusiasm of dominant behaviourist and positivist worldviews of practitioners and researchers, and from this vantage point, 'culture' has been understood pragmatically, and the 'culture question'as a technical issue that may affect communications between dialogists and negotiators (Ting-Toomey and Dorjee, 2018). Seen from this view, culture was merely an instrument to probe further into the technicalities of interparty communication and negotiation dynamics, and the study of cultures was important in order to make the conflict managers optimally equipped to have some amount of cultural competence, which was in turn, part of a more comprehensive requirement of communicational competence. This approach gave prominence to a number of relevant researches, majority of them funded by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) (Ting-Toomey and Dorjee, 2018). These researches were primarily focused on delineating culturally competent styles of negotiation, making rules for mediation between cultures and assessing the difference between high and low cultures. The scope of understanding is narrow here, and culture is only understood as a component that would be able to make the negotiation process more efficient. The present essay will try to engage in a conversation with the existing models of cross-cultural negotiation, and try to analyse them through real-life experiences of the researcher. The research holds that culture is a broader context than communication itself, and permeates all aspects of the living process.
The introduction has spent more than a few words to establish that culture indeed affects communication, which in turn is central to negotiation and conflict resolution practices. However, according to Avruch (2015) the implications of the culture context go well beyond communication, and it affects other components of the negotiation process, including values, interests and norms of the parties and lastly their very social reality that engages in the creation of meaning in social situations. Therefore, most of the approaches that practitioners take, including principled negotiation, is ultimately grounded in the notion of utility talk. This concern among academicians about making conflict resolutions efficacious raises a few ethical questions: efficacy for whom, to what end?
These questions form the pretext that seeks to interrogate the practitioners' hidden motifs behind negotiating their way into foreign places and cultures. A question of power inevitably come to the fore that may give way to cultural reduction and prejudice. According to Aslani et al. (2016), previous researches on culture in organizational exchange has relied on the traditional East-West dualism which compartmentalises culture in terms of binaries such as individualist versus collectivist, egalitarian versus hierarchical and independent versus interdependent to account for differences across cultures. According to a group of researchers, while Hofstede's formulation of egalitarian and hierarchical cultural binary continues to be instrumental in cross-cultural negotiation strategies, there is still a disproportionate amount of emphasis on individualism - collectivism binary in transcultural ideation of conflict resolution, which leaves certain gaps in empirical and theoretical understanding of transcultural literature (Nowak, Gelfand, Borkowski and Cohen, 2016).
The present study will take three distinct national cultures, Qatar, USA and China and try to engage in a comparative discussion between the three cultures from a new cultural psychological framework. The study will take these three national cultures with the aim of negotiating a new business relation with correspondents from these countries. The new framework, in question is built upon the notion of self-worth which is inherent in independent-interdependent paradigm of cultural distinction. In this juncture, Nowak, Gelfand, Borkowski and Cohen (2016) have proposed the existence of a third aspect of cultural exchange, namely honour, and they have showed that this aspect imbues many cultures such as those from Latin America, Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Social identity is a core concept of cultural psychology, and the identity is constructed by one's cultural predispositions. Self-worth forms the basis of social identity, which refers to how a person views him or herself in relation to the society. In collectivist cultures that characterise the global East in theoretical understanding, identity is rooted in social norms and values and it is constructed primarily through fulfilment of predetermined roles in family, tribe and society. In individualistic cultures of the west, on the other hand, identity is thought to be less dependent on fixed social roles and more on the arbitrary manifestation of self-autonomy and personal achievements.
Recent theorists have formulated a tripartite construction of the culture norm, which is comprised of face, dignity and honour. According to Yao et al. (2017), dignity is the assessment of self-worth based on the individual's own evaluation of his or her achievements and lauded values. Dignity does not depend on other's perception of the self, and the dignity culture does not fixate on inherent social roles and obligations. However, as they participate in social interactions and negotiations, they are not altogether free from obligations and expectations, and they take on social roles - although these roles are temporally bound. An example of this culture would be the United States, where an individual is not given a predisposed framework on which to construct identity, and the individual has considerable liberty in the process of identity creation. As dignity is something intrinsic and not extrinsically dictated by the social group within which the individual belongs, the dignified individual cannot be easily challenged by others.
Aslani et al. (2016) suggest that face, on the other hand, is self-worth perceived by others through social interaction. It involves the individual fulfilling certain preordained roles and in turn, moving up the hierarchical ladder of the society. Asian countries like China and India rely on the face culture, as in these countries, the society is structurally segregated between low and high social status. Therefore, an individual belonging to lower status should maintain face by performing the duties given to them and respecting those who are on a higher position in the social hierarchy. The face culture sees an individual as an intrinsic part of a hierarchical orientation such as a family, a community or an organization. To maintain face or status, an individual must be able to relate his or her achievements to that of a stable hierarchy. If everyone in the face culture fulfils the fixed social role, the hierarchical society would be able to preserve its stability and harmony. From this discussion, it becomes clear that there is no autonomy of choice in the face culture as it would be in the western culture based on dignity. What is there on the other hand, is a status quo, a predetermined set of belongings and behaviours that theoretically drive an individual to prosperity. If the individual fails to maintain the societal standards of 'a successful person', he or she must lose face.
For a long time, it was thought that these two types of culture worked to establish the normative psychology of most people who inhabit the planet (Friedrichs, 2016). The dignity and the face culture constructed the lens of cultural dualism through which most cultures would be subject to scrutiny. However, according to some critics such as Aslani et al. (2016) and Yao et al. (2017) there is another kind of culture that should permeate the discourse of the construction of cultural norms. This culture has been referred to the 'honour' culture, and it is thought to be unique to the Middle Eastern countries. According to Aslani et al. (2016), honour can be better understood through its Arabian and Persian derivative, 'izzat', which roughly translates to reputation based on morality. Honour culture can be understood not by difference, but rather as an assimilation of the previous two modes of cultures that have been discussed. What honour culture does is, it values an individual's assessment of his or her position in society, while focusing on the reputation building aspect more than anything. Like face culture, honour culture too is dependent on maintaining pre-existing social roles and responsibilities, but the method of attaining the respect is drastically different in these two cultures. Face cultures foster and are reinforced by stable hierarchies, where the individual must maintain face through duty and deference to the existing social order. On the other hand, the honour culture is characterized by dynamic or unstable hierarchies, where attaining the social honour often rely on competitive actions that are aimed to protect not just the reputation of the individual concerned, but also his or her families and other collaborative organisms (Smith et al., 2017).
Some theorists have provided a comprehensive model of culture, conflict resolution and outcome. This model proposes that competitive aspirations in a negotiation scenario is directly influenced by the cultures of the parties concerned. This empirical model is further tethered to the behavioural and motivational tradition of conflict research. The central assumption behind taking into account aspects of culture in the negotiation scenario is the cognitive structures of individuals are directly influenced by their cultural background and specificities, and it, in turn, can determine the behaviours and motivations of the negotiating parties (Gurnia, Brett and Gelfand, 2016). In this model, cultural differences are asserted by a geopolitical compartmentalization of whether an individual belongs to a face, dignity or honour culture (the global East, the global West and the Middle Eastern cultures).
It is worth noting that the degree of competitive aspiration varies from culture to culture. A competitive aspiration refers to the desire to secure personal gain in a conflict scenario at the expense of other parties involved. The idea is measured not by the amount of personal gain but by the notion of outperforming the competitive agents.
My Own Experience
According to my own understanding, the culture of England can be designated as a dignity culture. In dignity cultures, the social structures are less contested and more egalitarian, and therefore the individuals belonging to this culture are more concerned about maximising self-interest than outperforming competitive agents. Once the managerial department of our company arranged a meeting with a company based in Qatar to enclose a business deal. I came to observe that in the negotiation process, they were always determined to outperform our vested interests and gains. Luckily, some of our managers were well versed in the conflict resolution literature, and they were able to tackle the situation with ease. Practically, I would be more inclined to a democratic leadership style, especially if the team is culturally diversified. In the democratic leadership style, information and insights are shared, and the problem solving process involves the collaborative brainstorming of team members (Khan et al., 2015). As cognitive ability is influenced by cultural lineage, the employees belonging to different cultures would come up with a heterogeneous set of plausible solutions. Previously, I have worked under a democratic leader as part of my internship, and the agility, flexibility and horizontality that comes with this style of leadership makes for a spirited, cooperative and trust-basedteam organization.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that a negotiation process can never achieve its potential success without taking into account the abstract notions of identity and culture. Identity is a psychosocial construct that is directly dependent on the cultural lineage of the individual and in turn it influences the negotiators' behavioural and motivation strategy in a conflict scenario. These conflict scenarios are frequent in today's organizational setup and organizations must come out of these negotiation processes with tangible gain in order to stay competitive in the dynamic business environment.
Aslani, S., Ramirez?Marin, J., Brett, J., Yao, J., Semnani?Azad, Z., Zhang, Z.X., Tinsley, C., Weingart, L. and Adair, W., 2016. Dignity, face, and honor cultures: A study of negotiation strategy and outcomes in three cultures. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 37(8), pp.1178-1201.
Avruch, K., 2015. Context and pretext in conflict resolution: Culture, identity, power, and practice. Routledge.
Friedrichs, J., 2016. An intercultural theory of international relations: how self-worth underlies politics among nations. IT, 8, p.63.
Gunia, B.C., Brett, J.M. and Gelfand, M.J., 2016. The science of culture and negotiation. Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, pp.78-83.
Khan, M.S., Khan, I., Qureshi, Q.A., Ismail, H.M., Rauf, H., Latif, A. and Tahir, M., 2015. The styles of leadership: A critical review. Public Policy and Administration Research, 5(3), pp.87-92.
Nowak, A., Gelfand, M.J., Borkowski, W., Cohen, D. and Hernandez, I., 2016. The evolutionary basis of honor cultures. Psychological science, 27(1), pp.12-24.
Smith, P.B., Easterbrook, M.J., Blount, J., Koc, Y., Harb, C., Torres, C., Ping, H., Celikkol, G.C., Loving, R.D. and Rizwan, M., 2017. Culture as perceived context: An exploration of the distinction between dignity, face and honor cultures. Acta de InvestigacionPsicologica, 7(1), pp.2568-2576.
Ting-Toomey, S. and Dorjee, T., 2018. Communicating across cultures. Guilford Publications.
Yao, J., Ramirez-Marin, J., Brett, J., Aslani, S. and Semnani-Azad, Z., 2017. A measurement model for dignity, face, and honor cultural norms. Management and Organization Review, 13(4), p.713.
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