Negotiators are human, and as humans each of us behaves differently. We adopt different negotiation styles, our choice of style influenced by culture, our negotiation training and individual personality.
Some negotiators might be the ‘collaborators’, those who see negotiation as an opportunity to jointly solve problems and to achieve a Wise outcome. ‘Competitors’ see negotiations as opportunities to force the other side to surrender; it is a game of fighting against the other side and pushing them hard. Other styles are adopted by ‘accommodators’, ‘avoiders’ and ‘compromisers’.
But what about the seducers? Seducing is a negotiation style often linked to cultural differences, and rarely recognised as a tactical manoeuvre to gain advantage. In commercial negotiations the seducer reduces the other side’s resistance by being exaggeratedly nice, using a form of excessive politeness and by being overly accommodating.
For example, they personally pick you up from the airport, shower you with extravagant dinners, pay overwhelming attention to your personal needs, or attempt to develop your exclusive relationship to the extent of inviting you to private functions, and so on.
Personality and cultural background are the main influencers on the type and level of these behaviours. In some regions, this kind of behaviour is stronger and more common than others. Therefore a vital note to consider is that a part of the behaviour is genuine, and stems from the negotiator’s beliefs and personal experience while growing up in that particular culture. Often it is simply a ‘habit’ they have developed.
Another thing to consider is that this behaviour could be an aspect of their organisation’s business protocol, which they must follow to show respect and build trust. However we must ask when part of the behaviour is genuine, and when it is designed and carried out as a negotiation tactic. You might find your resistance crumbling and yourself giving in when you really shouldn’t be lowering your defences at all.
So what is an appropriate response to deal with the seducer’s type of negotiation style, while managing the relationship?
For one, you can “ignore” it – overlook their excessive politeness, not acknowledge their generosity. But this may upset and offend them. As mentioned previously, part of this behaviour comes from legitimate cultural beliefs. Ignoring their kindness may seriously harm the relationship so that reaching any agreement is difficult, if not impossible.
Another option is to “give in” and return in kind – go out of your comfort zone and match their behaviour (assuming that it is an acceptable business practice and in line with your organisation’s code of conduct). However, this approach may not fit well within your personality and you may find yourself giving in to some of their demands where you shouldn’t, preventing you from achieving a Wise outcome.
A good option is to learn how to address and respond to such situations. The key to this is to gain a thorough understanding of how different cultures use these tactics to gain advantage during negotiations.
Preferably, in a well-managed negotiation, the seducer’s personality and behaviour have already been identified at an early stage of negotiation preparation. The other side’s tactics are anticipated prior to sitting at the negotiating table.
Studies of successful cross-cultural negotiations show that one important tool to achieve a wise negotiated agreement is to select and include at least one team member with same cultural background as the other side. This team member can then observe the behaviour of the other side, bring it to your attention and advise you of correct way to respond.
There is a fine line between building personal relationships and building close business relationships, which in many collectivism cultures needs to be managed carefully in order to maintain the relationship and avoid offending the other side. You must make it clear to the other side that you regard personal and business relationships separately.
As with most negotiating styles, dealing with seducers effectively and reaching a Wise decision involves researching the other side’s tactics, negotiators and background, and careful planning on your own side. Including a member of the same cultural background in your team is an effective response to this tactic, as this team member can recognise the seducer’s style, and are in a better position to communicate culturally sensitive messages. As always, a structured approach to preparation is the key to achieving a Wise outcome.