Kinesics and proxemics are nonverbal communications that may create barriers in intercultural communications. One of the pioneers in the field of Kinesics, Ray Birdwhistell, defines kinesics as the study of observable, isolable and meaningful movements in human communication (Birdwhistell 192).
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Proxemics on the other hand is the study of cultural space requirements. Both kinesics and proxemics are not universal and as such, differences are to be expected across cultures. While both would impair communication efforts for a US company operating in Japan for the first time, I believe that kinesics would present the bigger challenge.
There is no universal code for what body language means and for this reason, kinesics are easy to misinterpret. For example, In the US, people are brought up to not only be very comfortable with maintaining eye contact while communicating but also to expect the same from others when communicating.
On the other hand, most Asian countries including Japan view eye contact as particularly rude and disrespectful. In Japanese culture, the bow is an important posture in communication and it signifies the relationship between the communicating members. There are a myriad of kinesics and it will be hard for the US Company to learn all of the applicable kinesics when relating to the Japanese people. Proxemics on the other hand may be relatively easier to adapt since they only involve distance.
Basic Negotiating Steps
Negotiation is defined as “communication for the purpose of persuasion (Shamir, 2003; Goldberg, Sander & Rogers, 1992). The first step in the negotiation process is to describe what it is that you want to negotiate. This is based on the concept that negotiation involves a conflict of interests about particular resources. The participants will therefore identify the situation which is the terms of the partnership agreement between the two companies.
Having articulated the issue, the negotiations can be deemed as being ready to begin. The process ideally begins by both parties presenting their issues which are mostly in the form of demands and goals to be met. A goal is defined as a known or presumed commercial or personal interest of all or some of the parties to the negotiation and it is these goals that set the grounds for the negotiation process. From this an outline of expectations from the parties involved can be made and the agenda for the negotiation process outlined.
The second step involves a deeper probing to enable both parties to understand each other better. As such, this step is characterized by the informational exchange between the parties involved in a bid to establish the real needs and goals. Each side aims at understanding the opponent, their limits and how far they are willing to compromise so as to reach a consensus.
Use of open-ended questions and allowing the other party to correct your understanding of the issue are some of the best means of ensuring that a good understanding of the issues at hand is attained. Restatement of information leads to clarity and confirmation thus assuring that communication is effective. A key element in this step is to get as much information as is possible to enable the parties to come up with as many options as are possible
Once it has been clearly established what each party wants, the next step involves trying to influence the other party to reach a concession that is beneficial to you. The principle reason for negotiating is to try and produce better results than you can obtain without negotiation (Shamir, 2003; Fisher et al., 1991).
Concession trading which is the aim of good negotiation is the next stage in negotiating. Consensus building is a decision and agreement reached by all the identified parties. In this process, each party is required to reduce their demands or aspirations so as to accommodate the other party.
The agreements arrived at should be finalized and subsequently formalized since in as much as an agreement has been reached, that by itself does not guarantee that the implementation will proceed undeterred. Creation of methods of implementation and monitoring should be achieved.
Shamir (2003) suggests that for significant issues, an agenda and timetable should be decided upon and the various issues which have been agreed outlined. A clear and detailed description of the steps to be taken to make sure that the formal agreement is implemented should also be made.
How should a U.S. company negotiate in Japan?
There are certain considerations that a U.S. company should make when negotiating in Japan. Arguably the most important factor for a company to take into consideration when negotiating with a Japanese company is the time component. Lehman declares that Japanese business people tend to make decisions much more slowly than their US counterparts (182).
The reason for this is that time is valued differently between the two cultures. Berton asserts that the Japanese are extremely group dependent and therefore, group decisions are valued over individual decisions (151). As such, the Japanese company is bound to want to deliberate for longer before coming up with a decision.
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With these factors in mind, the best manner in which the US Company can act can be rightly extrapolated. For starters, the US Company should ensure that they do not rush the negotiation since Japanese prefer to be slow and deliberate.
While US corporations value honesty in business practices, Japanese corporations value “saving face” more. As such, it is imperative for the US company to avoid being brutally honest if it will result in the embarrassment of the Japanese parties. Lehman revels that Japanese prefer to take the stance of the “buyer” in negotiations since buyers have higher status than the seller in Japanese culture (182). The US Company should therefore play the role of the “seller”.
Berton, Peter. How Unique is Japanese Negotiating Behavior? Japan Review, 1998, 10: 151-161.
Lehman, Carol. Business Communication. Cengage Learning, 2007. Print.
Nomura, Keiji. A survey of Kinesics in the Conversational Use of Spoken English. 1990. Web. Web.
Ray, Birdwhistell. Kinesics and Context. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970. Print.
Shamir, Y. (2003). Alternative Dispute Resolution Approaches and their Application. PCCP Publications.