Bridging Social Distance in Inter-Cultural Negotiations: 'You' and the Bi-Cultural Negotiator

International Journal of Conflict Management, Forthcoming

36 Pages Posted: 28 May 2010

See all articles by Mary (Molly) C. Kern

Mary (Molly) C. Kern

Baruch College

Sujin Lee

KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology)

Zeynep G. Aytug

Baruch College, City University of New York

Jeanne M. Brett

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management

Date Written: May 27, 2010

Abstract

In this study of Korean and U.S. negotiators, we demonstrate limits on the presumption that inter-cultural negotiations are doomed to generate low joint gains. In a laboratory study with 45 bi-cultural Korean students and 47 mono-cultural American students, we created a total of 16 U.S.-U.S., 15 Korean-Korean, and 15 U.S.-Korean dyads. We audio-recorded their negotiation conversations and analyzed the content of the negotiation transcripts. We focused on the use of pronouns and coded how they were used and the impact this use had on the outcomes of the intra- and inter-cultural negotiations. Results show that inter-cultural dyads generate higher joint gains than Korean or U.S. intra-cultural dyads. The explanation based on social awareness and social distance theorizing shows that inter-cultural negotiators, one of whom is bi-cultural, who use language, especially the pronoun “you” to close social distance, achieve higher joint gains than intra-cultural negotiators who do not. We conclude that the language people use in social interaction, especially pronouns, is an indicator of social awareness and signals attempts to close social distance. This research demonstrates that the way negotiators use language predicts their economic outcomes.

Keywords: Culture and negotiation, Social distance, Bi-cultural, Language, Pronouns

Suggested Citation

Kern, Mary (Molly) C. and Lee, Sujin and Aytug, Zeynep G. and Brett, Jeanne M., Bridging Social Distance in Inter-Cultural Negotiations: 'You' and the Bi-Cultural Negotiator (May 27, 2010). International Journal of Conflict Management, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1616475

Mary (Molly) C. Kern

Baruch College ( email )

One Bernard Baruch Way
Box B9-240
New York, NY 10010
United States
646.312.3673 (Phone)

Sujin Lee (Contact Author)

KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) ( email )

373-1 Kusong-dong
Yuson-gu
Daejeon 305-701
Korea

Zeynep G. Aytug

Baruch College, City University of New York ( email )

Management Department
One Bernard Baruch Way B9-240
New York, NY 10010
United States

Jeanne M. Brett

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-8075 (Phone)
847-491-8896 (Fax)

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