Reading Your Counterpart: Culture, Meaning, and Function of Nonverbal Behaviour in Negotiation
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Literature on cross-cultural negotiation suggests that the challenges negotiators often face in intercultural interactions stem from miscommunication. While prior research examined verbal messages in this context, there is limited research on nonverbal behaviour. In my dissertation I investigate how culture influences display and function of nonverbal communication in Chinese and Canadian intracultrual negotiations. I integrate and expand prior work on cross-cultural negotiation from a communication perspective, by employing theories of relational versus task orientation at work, low-high context communication, and the involvement-affect model of communication. Across two studies, participants engaged in an intracultual dyadic negotiation simulation, which was videotaped and coded for nonverbal expression. I predicted that 1) Chinese negotiators will be more subtle and indirect in their nonverbal displays than Canadian negotiators, 2) Chinese negotiators’ nonverbal displays will be reflective of their relational orientation and Canadian negotiators’ nonverbal behaviours will be associated with their task orientation in negotiation, and 3) nonverbal communication will be more impactful for the outcome of Chinese than Canadian negotiators. Study 1 explored whether the nonverbal display of Chinese negotiators reflects their relational orientation. I examined dominant nonverbal cues by male and female Canadian and Chinese negotiators, arguing that explicit and overt expression of dominance reflects lower relational concern. The findings showed cultural differences among male but not female negotiators. Results revealed that male Chinese negotiators displayed subtler and restrained dominant behaviours by occupying space at the negotiation table. In contrast, male Canadian negotiators engaged in more overt dominant behaviours, such as relaxed postures and negative facial expressions. So, while male negotiators from both cultures displayed dominant behaviours, Chinese negotiators’ nonverbal cues were more restrained, possibly reflecting a more relational stance. Study 2 extended the previous study by examining the function of nonverbal cues in negotiation. Study 2A implemented an experimental approach. Negotiation roles were manipulated to elicit negotiators’ culturally normative nonverbal cues associated with a particular approach. Male Canadian and Chinese participants engaged in a negotiation simulation with a confederate. The findings illustrated that Chinese negotiators varied their nonverbal behaviors the most as a function of relational affect. Canadian negotiators varied their nonverbal behaviors the most as a function of involvement in the negotiation task. So, the primary function of nonverbal behaviours among Chinese negotiators may be to connote the nature of the relationship. Study 2B analyzed the paralinguistic cues from Study 2A to test whether paralanguage also conveys relational versus task orientation in negotiation. Findings show that Chinese negotiators convey their intention for relationship building via calmness in voice and emotion suppression in tone. These behaviours are consistent with self-control and restraint. Canadian negotiators convey involvement in the negotiation task through faster speech rate and expressiveness in voice. Across the two studies I examined the impact of nonverbal behaviours on economic and relational outcomes. The results illustrate that in general Chinese negotiators’ nonverbal behaviours were more predictive of negotiation outcomes than Canadian negotiators’ nonverbal behaviours. Moreover, nonverbal behaviours partially mediated the relationship between culture and joint gains. The results across the two studies are discussed in terms of their theoretical implications to cross-cultural negotiation and communication as well as the practical applications in Chinese and Canadian intracultural and intercultural negotiations.
Cite this work
Zhaleh Semnani-Azad (2015). Reading Your Counterpart: Culture, Meaning, and Function of Nonverbal Behaviour in Negotiation. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/9533