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Cultural Focus: Negotiating in France



If you wish to become an effective cross-cultural communicator, you must first be yourself. Then you must be sensitive to others. In France – a foreign venue that intimidates many Americans – these fundamental rules will serve you well, but sophistication, courtesy and professionalism will take you even further. Observing the following points of protocol will enhance your success when negotiating with French business associates:

  • Employ an agent well-connected in business and government circles.
  • Ensure that the agent/advisor speaks fluent French.
  • Be open to social interaction and communicate directly.
  • Make an extreme initial proposal, expecting to make concessions later.
  • Work efficiently to “get the job done.”
  • Follow some French protocol (greetings and leave-takings, formal speech).
  • Demonstrate an awareness of French culture and business environment.
  • Be consistent between actual and stated goals and between attitudes and behavior.
  • Defend views vigorously.
  • Approach negotiation as a debate involving reasoned argument.
  • Know the subject of negotiation and broad environmental issues (economic, political, social).
  • Make intellectually elegant, persuasive yet creative presentations (logically sound, verbally precise).
  • Speak in French.
  • Show interest in the counterpart as an individual but remain aware of the strictures of social and organization hierarchies.
  • Do homework on the individual counterparts(s) and circumstances.
  • Be attentive and nimble (improvising entails different behaviors for different French individuals).
  • Invite counterpart to participate in mutually enjoyed activities or interest (e.g., dining out, tennis).
Photo courtesy of Laurel Delaney while traveling in Evian, France.

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