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Dealing difference: A look at negotiating cultu chamown Mexico. (Spotlight).

Every individual has a unique negotiating style, a product of childhood upbringing, family environment, profession. business experience, culture and other life experiences. Over the last 10 years, negotiation as a methodological practice has received greater attention as business has become more complicated, increasingly global, more competitive and better informed. A recent investigation carried out by Dr. Habib Chamoun sought to provide' a better understanding about the way Mexicans negotiate. The investigation is the result of a survey of some 600 local professionals of different genders, sectors, age groups and regions, and is based on the negotiating model developed by Harvard University's Dr. Jeswald Salacuse. Following is a summary of some of the study's most notable findings.

Contracts versus relationships

Are negotiations commonly conducted with the aim of signing a one-time contract, or is a long-term relationship the aim of the negotiation?

Not surprisingly, lawyers focused the most on contracts, with over 70% of those interviewed favoring this option. Bureaucrats rang in at 60%, while 43% of those in scientific or technological professions favored this negotiating style. By comparison, just 32% of female executives preferred contract negotiating, and placed more importance on relationships.

Traditionally, Mexican culture favors long-term relationships over specific contracts. The likely reason behind the fact that urban and more economically dynamic areas in Mexico now give contracts greater importance over relationships is their exposure to foreign cultures, global corporations and the implicit risks of investing higher levels of resources. However, there are still many parts of Mexico where a firm handshake means more than a written contract.

Negotiating attitude: zero-sum?

In a win-win scenario, both sides attempt to reach objectives for a mutually beneficial accord. But a zero-sum situation demands that one of the two parties give in to significant aspects of the agreement.

The investigation showed that more than 80% of Mexicans have a win-win attitude when it comes to negotiating. However, there are some that see negotiation as zero-sum. This is often the case with bureaucrats, 45% of them approaching negotiations as a win-lose situation.

The study also detected that in some cases losing a negotiation is not important, providing that the other party doesn't win.

Attitude: formal or informal?

A formal negotiator will address other participants by their professional titles and avoid dealing on a close and personal level. The informal negotiator seeks a friendlier and more personal relationship, and attempts to create a casual and more comfortable environment.

Fifty-five percent of Mexican professionals in science and technology industries showed preference for informal negotiations, as did 43% of female executives. In general terms, negotiating culture is more informal among small- and medium-sized businesses. Meanwhile, 62% of bureaucrats favored formality.

Communication: direct or indirect?

Direct communication makes use of straightforward and simple phrases to describe a situation. Indirect communication assumes that the other party has a significantly high level of education and/or understanding, which enables the use of insinuations, hints and veiled remarks to express an opinion or a decision that is made.

Some 89.5% of female executives preferred direct dealing, as did 80% of bureaucrats and 75% of those in scientific or technological professions. Meanwhile, only 30% of those with administrative professions preferred a direct style.

Time sensitivity: high or low?

High time sensitivity reflects a strong interest in punctuality and formality. Low time sensitivity indicates greater flexibility in schedules and less punctuality in appointments.

The study indicated that those most sensitive to time were those in science-related professions, at 82%, followed by female executives, at 7S%. Likewise, 70% of lawyers were sensitive to time. Meanwhile, only 56% of bureaucrats were highly sensitive to punctuality. Time sensitivity was also found to vary substantially depending on geographic region. In this sense, Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey proved to be far more time sensitive than areas such as Merida and Veracruz.

Emotional display: high or low?

Some negotiators may hide or play down their emotions, while others do not hesitate to demonstrate emotions while negotiating.

Some 68% of female executives demonstrated high sensitivity to emotions. On the other hand, just 30% of directors of small- and medium-sized firms were emotionally sensitive.

Agreements: general or specific?

A specific agreement refers to a detailed listing of all aspects related to the deal. General contracts do not usually cover all the specifics and are intentionally left open in order to continue the relationship.

Female executives (70%), lawyers (90%) and bureaucrats (90%) said they prefer to be specific when negotiating. On the other hand, directors of small- and mediumsized firms (30%) said they prefer to negotiate in general terms. Because of the nature of their work, lawyers tend to pay close attention to detail, especially in the negotiation of contracts.

Team management: leadership or consensus?

In some groups, bosses alone make decisions. In other organizations, decisions are made after consulting team players.

While female executives and lawyers favor decisions by one head (55%), by and large the survey found that most Mexicans prefer to reach decisions through consensus.

Risk tolerance: high or low?

Some negotiators are likely to run greater risks when doing business, exposing themselves to higher degrees of uncertainty. By comparison, those inclined to low-risk business styles avoid complications that could arise before closing any deal.

Female executives and directors of small- and mediumsized businesses demonstrated a 72% capacity to take risks. The lowest risk takers were bureaucrats, at just 48%.

RELATED ARTICLE: Some general survey profiles:

Young male executives and professionals

Tough negotiating style, and decision-making based on logical foundations. They are easier to convince with data that provides evidence of tangible medium-and long-term benefits for their organization. They seek win-win situations, are more focused on the contract than on the relationship, and are more likely to favor the general over the specific.

Young female executives and professionals

Make decisions slowly and cautiously, and need to have all the angles covered before reaching an agreement. Their negotiating style focuses more on the specific than on generalities. They pay close attention to detail, and while contracts are important, the relationship is more so.

Executive older than 50 without a university degree

Tough negotiators, who are more interested in the relationship than in the contract. They make decision based on impulses, and later justify them logically.

Different geographical areas:

In general, in central and southern Mexico relationships are considered more important than contracts, and businesspeople are more indirect in their negotiating style. In northern Mexico, businesspeople favor contracts and a more direct negotiating style.

Dr. Habib Chamown is general director of Global Azez and author of the book "Desarrollo de Negocios" published by Agata.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:research on Mexicans' negotiating styles
Author:Chamown, Dr. Habib
Publication:Business Mexico
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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