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
Date Written: May 27, 2010
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
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