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© Articolo estratto dal libro di Daniele Trevisani “Strategic selling. Psicologia e comunicazione per la vendita consulenziale e le negoziazioni complesse”. Franco Angeli editore, Milano. Pubblicato con il permesso dell’autore.

Una vendita, tante psicologie

Chi si occupa di comunicazione da tempo e per lavoro, sa bene che le persone non acquistano solo oggetti, ma “comprano” idee, concetti, immagini mentali, simbologie da esibire. Comprano per far contento qualcuno in azienda, o per conquistare un credito relazionale.

A volte comprano quello che non gli serve. A volte non comprano ciò che gli servirebbe davvero. Ma dietro ad ogni scelta, per quanto primitiva e irrazionale, si nasconde una logica, che una mente da analista può scoprire.

La Consumer Research (scienza del comportamento di consumo), in alcuni dei suoi esponenti di punta, primo di tutti il Semiologo David Mick, ha analizzato le connessioni tra i significati che attribuiamo ai prodotti e le nostre scelte di acquisto[1]. L’esito fondamentale di una grande mole di ricerche è il valore di “auto-regalo” che i prodotti assumono (self-gifting), una “carezza psicologica” che le persone si fanno concedendosi un certo prodotto, o un certo marchio, e il valore di “simbolico” che connette larga parte degli acquisti: l’acquisto come dimostrazione di potere, o di status, di differenziazione da… o di appartenenza ad un gruppo.

La Psicologia Semiotica del Marketing si occupa di comprendere le connessioni tra “segni” esterni (es. un marchio), significati esistenziali (cosa significa per me quel marchio o simbolo), e comportamenti di acquisto.

È attenta quindi ai simbolismi che le persone associano a un prodotto o un comportamento di acquisto, quali sono i segni e segnali ai quali un cliente presta attenzione, e che valore hanno per lui.

status

Senza l’analisi semiotica non potremmo mai afferrare, ad esempio, il legame ancestrale che lega moto e motociclista (la moto come mezzo di libertà), e lo vedremmo solo come mezzo di trasporto. Se entriamo nell’analisi di uno specifico marchio – perderemmo di vista il significato di ribellione, potenza e voglia di trasgressione (e tanti altri simbolismi) che un motociclista appassionato associa alla sua Harley Davidson.

Altri studi analizzano il valore dimostrativo o esibitivo che hanno i comportamenti specifici di acquisto, come il recarsi in un casinò a giocare o il gioco d’azzardo, i tanti “perché nascosti, dimostrativi e auto-dimostrativi” che conducono una persona a farlo[2]. Questi studi esaminano soprattutto i bisogni profondi cui risponde questo atto, nonostante si tratti di un comportamento che esce di ogni logica apparente. 

Sempre in campo semiotico, si producono analisi interessantissime, quali quelle sulle “costellazioni di consumo”: i “raggruppamenti” nei quali troviamo mescolati marchi, prodotti, tipologie di persone e strati sociali. Uno studio di Chaplin e Lowrey[3] dimostra che i bambini e ragazzi sono in grado di distinguere con precisione queste “costellazioni”, e compiono scelte di acquisto correlate, hanno “fiuto” per il mondo sociale che li circonda, come emerge da questa intervista fatta dai ricercatori:

Il mio vicino di casa, . . . è così “Crunchie” . . .hai presente… vegetariano, ambientalista, superintelligente… ma così svaccato.. si mette le Birkenstocks, guida una Prius, mangia solo cibi organici… ci scommetto che lava i panni con il detersivo Seventh Generation. . . l’”Accarezza Alberi”… non so se mi spiego… “ [ride]. 

(ragazza 12enne intervistata nello studio di Chaplin e Lowrey, 2010)

Una costellazione di consumo è definita come un gruppo di “prodotti complementari, specifici marchi, e/o attività di consumo utilizzate per costruire, dare significato o assumere uno specifico ruolo sociale” (Englis & Solomon)[4].

I motivi di un acquisto possono essere tanti, ma tutti portano verso il bisogno di comprensione del lato psicologico del cliente, dei comportamento di acquisto, e della correlazione con la strategia di vendita.

Un cerchio giallo all’orecchio, con sopra “qualcosa che luccica” può avere valore di “gioiello” solo se chi lo indossa lo vede come tale, in caso contrario verrebbe trattato come un sovrappeso, qualcosa di inutile.

status symbol

I Semiologi del marketing hanno segnalato da tempo agli economisti un aspetto fondamentale per chi si occupa di vendita: il bisogno di concentrarsi sul “consumo di simboli”, sull’”acquisto di significati”, il meccanismo che porta una persona a volere non solo il prodotto quanto i simbolismi che quel prodotto porta con sé, per quanto irrazionali essi sembrino.

I premi Nobel Kahneman e Tversky[5] con i loro studi di psicologia economica, dimostrano come i processi decisionali umani non seguono sempre principi di razionalità, e gli umani non sono “consumatori razionali”.

A cosa affidarsi quindi? Ad alcuni valori ancestrali, come il valore della fiducia. Si diventa fornitori primari e si vende non solo per i prodotti che si possono mettere a disposizione ma anche per la capacità di generare fiducia.

La fiducia è un fatto molto personale, richiede attenzioni, sensibilità, avere un’immagine positiva alla quale non sia disdicevole accostarsi.

La distintività, su un mercato affollato di fornitori, arriva oggi dal creare relazioni che possono offrire valori aggiunti: certezza, garanzia di esserci, rassicurazione, problem solving, assumersi dei carichi che il cliente non riesce a gestire da solo o non vuole gestire.

fiducia

La Psicologia della Fiducia è un intero nuovo settore della psicologia aziendale che si occupa proprio di questo: come generare (non solo a livello esteriore, ma soprattutto nei fatti) un legame di fiducia forte tra azienda e cliente[6], un “filo rosso”, un senso di sicurezza che unisce il cliente all’azienda. 

Questo comprende la nostra capacità di generare certezze, e per il cliente sapere di poter contare su persone genuine, autentiche, credibili, esperte, preparate e serie, tenendo alla larga i tanti improvvisatori e disonesti.

Chi opera nelle vendite complesse diventa presto consapevole di quanto sia determinante trasferire al cliente un’immagine di identità chiara, forte, vendere chi siamo, far capire dove si colloca il nostro valore, e vendere soluzioni (Solutions Selling), far seguire alle promesse i fatti. 

I clienti non acquistano solo “pezzi” (es, una fornitura di PC) ma vogliono soddisfare dei bisogni psicologici e aziendali, es. velocizzare il lavoro o far sparire il “mal di denti” dei continui malfunzionamenti informatici che li assillano e gli impediscono di concentrarsi su quello che conta, sul loro lavoro. 

Per vendere soluzioni, dobbiamo essere abili nel capire i bisogni, il mondo dei problemi così come percepiti ora dal cliente. E non solo quelli evidenti, ma soprattutto quelli nascosti. Quelli che “non si dicono”. 

È difficile per chiunque, e soprattutto per un dirigente, un titolare d’azienda o un buyer, affermare o “confessare” di aver scelto in precedenza un fornitore sbagliato. 

Avviare il meccanismo della “confessione”, far si che un cliente si apra e “confessi” le proprie esigenze, è un risultato da vero professionista. Un risultato che richiede tempo e abilità.

confessione

È umanamente difficile confessare di aver fatto scelte di mercato che si sono rivelate errate nei fatti, o avere buchi organizzativi, personale demotivato o impreparato (con il rischio di emergere come leader poco abili), difettosità nei prodotti e lamentele dei clienti, e far trasparire i problemi reali che rischiano di dare di sé un immagine negativa. 

La paura di proiettare un’immagine di sé come manager inadeguato esiste, per cui le verità vengono nascoste. 

Ma verità rimangono. E di tali verità di tutti i giorni, nessuna azienda è completamente priva, nemmeno le migliori. 

Da queste condizioni di bisogno non dette partono i moventi di acquisto più forti. Anzi, proprio questi elementi di realtà sono i motori della vendita. 

I moventi d’acquisto si collegano a tensioni sottostanti, stati di discrepanza tra:

(1) come le cose sono, come vengono percepite ora,

(2) come il cliente le vorrebbe.

In altre parole, stati di “mancanza di omeostasi”, percezione di squilibrio, e desiderio di cambiare questi stati.

Per scoprirli, non sarà sufficiente fare domande aperte o contare sulla trasparenza, ma dovremmo arrivare alla verità con una strategia oculata, o una raccolta di informazioni da più fonti, e una forte abilità nelle tecniche di intervista e ascolto attivo.

È necessario coltivare l’abilità, nel venditore, di produrre un clima comunicazionale o “stato conversazionale” in cui si possa creare questa “confessione”, facendo emergere la verità anziché mascherarla. 

Solo così avremo capito come stanno veramente le cose.

Tuttavia, le aziende – come sa benissimo chi le abita –  pullulano di bugie, dette sia internamente sia all’esterno, per cui questa attività di scoperta delle verità è un gioco davvero duro, un gioco per professionisti.

Passare la barriera dell’immagine, delle menzogne, e la coltre di reciproche coperture, è un compito arduo, che richiede professionalità. 

Vendere in ambienti complessi è possibile solo dopo aver capito dove si situano i gap, le dissonanze, le vulnerabilità, il “non detto”, le molle psicologiche che possono far scattare un acquisto, nella intricata rete di decisori e influenzatori. Ed è un compito che richiede formazione.

Diventano essenziali quindi non soltanto i training per l’espressività (farsi capire, saper presentare con efficacia), ma soprattutto training che coltivano le doti di ascolto attivo, analisi tattica ed empatia strategica.

strategia

Tutto questo fa parte della sfera di competenza della psicologia strategica. 

La psicologia strategica è la scienza che si occupa di come generare risultati attraverso azioni comunicative e tattiche (e non, come nel caso della psicologia clinica, curare disturbi psicologici). 

La psicologia positiva è una branca delle scienze psicologiche che si occupa di come generare un atteggiamento positivo in sé stessi e nel gruppo, motivazione, voglia di vivere, capacità di analisi e costruzione attiva dei fattori che possono portare una persona a raggiungere risultati, stato di benessere interiore, e resilienza (capacità di apprendere dagli errori e rialzarsi dopo un insuccesso).

La vendita consulenziale non è un insieme di procedure, è un modo di essere analisti e strateghi che attinge a piene mani alla psicologia positiva e alla psicologia strategica. 

Il metodo cui stiamo lavorando unisce le tecniche della psicologia strategica e della psicologica positiva.

Lo scopo è sviluppare una mente da analista e un modo di essere “stratega positivo”: una persona che utilizza la strategia, compie analisi, apprende dagli errori, considera la sua attività come un grande laboratorio di ricerca, riesce ad immettere energie positive nel suo lavoro, ricavando gratificazione dal modo con cui lavora più che dalle aspettative altrui. 

Questo modo di essere si nutre della volontà di capire, di analizzare, di comprendere, anche e persino mentalità diverse, antitetiche, o distorte, strane mappe di potere, personalità razionali e personalità contorte, irrazionali, confusionarie, entrare in sistemi decisionali noti o invece immergersi in sistemi-cliente strambi, inusuali, dissonanti, senza farsi spaventare da questi, ma anzi accettandoli come “oggetto di ricerca” e sfida professionale.

Mettersi il “camice bianco” dell’analista è fondamentale per capire i sistemi-cliente e i varchi che si possono aprire per generare una vendita non solo sporadica, ma continuativa.

clima comunicazionale

La vendita consulenziale è un approccio psicodinamico alle tecniche di vendita, centrato sul concetto di empatia strategica e di counseling d’acquisto (consulenza verso i bisogni, analisi dei bisogni espressi ed inespressi).

Secondo il modello della scuola consulenziale di vendita, l’obiettivo di una vendita è di attivare una forte relazione empatica con il cliente, essere di aiuto verso i bisogni espressi, far emergere il lato inespresso, e far precedere alla vendita vera e propria un’importante fase di analisi, di ascolto attivo, di comprensione, attivando una “percezione aumentata” (Extended Cognition).

Queste capacità provengono dalla psicologia clinica, in particolare dalle tecniche del colloquio clinico, dell’intervista in profondità, dalla “terapia centrata sul cliente” di Carl Rogers, che utilizza gli strumenti fondamentali della riformulazione verbale ed emotiva, senza la quale non potremmo mai sapere se siamo “connessi” o distanti dal vissuto del cliente[7].

Nella vendita consulenziale Business to Business non può esistere conclusione di vendita senza analisi dei processi aziendali o psicologici che rendono  un certo prodotto – o soluzione –  importante. 

Perché qualcosa diventa importante? Perché ora? Perché non ieri? E come ha risolto il problema sinora il cliente? Quanto è soddisfatto? Che differenza esiste tra ciò che dice e ciò che sappiamo? O tra ciò che dice a voce e ciò che traspare dal suo volto o dall’osservazione della sua azienda? Tra quanto si è detto in riunione e quanto si sente dire nei corridoi?

Possiamo entrare in un livello di relazione tale da far “aprire” il cliente e tirar fuori i veri bisogni, anche quelli non detti?

Per farlo servono vere e proprie metodologie e tecnologie di analisi psicologica. Ad esempio, la Consulenza di Processo (Edgar Schein)[8] offre numerosi spunti, ma nessuna scuola in sé è sufficiente. Per affrontare il mondo delle vendite complesse dobbiamo entrare in un territorio di sperimentazione.

La vendita consulenziale non ha alcuna regola prefissata e rigida, non esistono concetti rapidi o giochi ipnotici, o altre scorciatoie comportamentali: esistono solo tante competenze da apprendere, provare sul campo, per poi ritornare ad apprendere, in una palestra professionale che è anche e soprattutto palestra di vita.

Dovremo sempre tenere alto il fronte della Psicologia Positiva, come nuova scienza che può aiutarci a trovare nuove vie della crescita individuale. 

coltivare

La psicologia positiva ambisce alla coltivazione di uno stile di vita e di pensiero positivo, lo sviluppo delle energie mentali, la crescita dell’ottimismo e dell’ottimismo appreso[9], per costruire gli atteggiamenti che ci servono ad affrontare un mestiere duro ma ricco di enormi soddisfazioni.


[1] Gli studi fondamentali che aprono questo dibattito sono: Mick, D. (1991), Giving gifts to ourselves: A greimassian analysis leading to testable propositions. Marketing and semiotics. Selected papers from the Copenhagen Symposium. Copenhagen, Handelshojskolens Forlag.

Mick, D.G. & DeMoss, M. (1990), To Me from Me. A descriptive phenomenology of self-gifts, in Advances in Consumer Research, 17, 677-682.

Mick, D.G. (1986), Consumer research and semiotics: exploring the morphology of signs, symbols, and significante, in Journal of Consumer Research, 12, 196-213.

Mick, D.G. (1989), The semiotic motive in consumer behavior: recent insight from North American research, Paper presented at the 14th Annual Colloquioum of the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology, Sept. 24-27, Poland.

[2] Humphreys, A. (2010), Semiotic Structure and the Legitimation of Consumption Practices: The Case of Casino Gambling, in Journal of Consumer Research, October 2010.

[3] Chaplin, L.N & Lowrey, T.M (2010), The Development of Consumer-Based Consumption Constellations in Children, in Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 36, February 2010

[4] Englis, B. G. & Michael R. Solomon (1995), To Be and Not to Be: Lifestyle Imagery, Reference Groups, and the Clustering of America, in Journal of Advertising, 24 (Spring), 13–28.

Englis, B. G. & Michael R. Solomon (1996), Using Consumption Constellations to Develop Integrated Communications Strategies, in Journal of Business Research, 37 (3), 183–91.

[5] Kahneman, D. e Tversky, A. (1979), Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk, in Econometrica, 47(2), 263-291.

Kahneman, D. e Tversky, A. (1981), Judgment under Uncertainty. Heuristics and Biases, in Science.

[6] Tra i tanti articoli in merito, citiamo alcuni tra cui: 

Karmarkar, U. R., & Tormala, Z. L. (2010), Believe Me, I Have No Idea What I’m Talking About: The Effects of Source Certainty on Consumer Involvement and Persuasion, in Journal Of Consumer Research, Vol. 36, April 2010.

Beverland, M. B. & Farrelly F. J (2010), The Quest for Authenticity in Consumption: Consumers’ Purposive Choice of Authentic Cues to Shape Experienced Outcomes, in Journal Of Consumer Research, Vol. 36, February 2010.

[7] Per alcuni riferimenti bibliografici su Carl Rogers, vedi bibliografia a termine volume.

Rogers, C. R. (1977), Carl Rogers On Personal Power, Delacorte Press, New York. Trad. it: Potere Personale. La forza interiore e il suo effetto rivoluzionario, Roma, Astrolabio, 1978.

Rogers, C. R. (1951), Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory, Houghton Mifflin, Boston

Rogers, C. R. (1961), On becoming a Person, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

[8] La metodologia della Consulenza di Processo è strettamente derivata dagli studi di Psicologia Umanistica di Carl Rogers, ed è in grado di inquadrare i processi evolutivi che il cliente vive, e le sue dinamiche aziendali da un punto di vista evoluzionistico. 

Tuttavia, si tratta di un metodo destinato originariamente alla consulenza di Direzione Aziendale. La sua applicazione alla vendita consulenziale va creata (ed è il nostro compito), va appresa, va studiata, e serve una formazione forte, professionale.

[9] Citiamo le opere di Myers, D. G. (1993), The pursuit of happiness: Discovering the pathway to fulfillment, well-being, and enduring personal joy, Avon, New York. 

Seligman, M. E. P. (1998), Learned optimism: How to change your mind and your life (2 nd ed.), Pocket Books, New York. 

Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000), Positive psychology: An introduction. In: American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.

Anolli, Luigi (2005), L’ottimismo, Il Mulino, Bologna.


Altri materiali su Comunicazione, Formazione, Potenziale Umano, Crescita Personale e Professionale, disponibili in questi siti e link:

Altre risorse online

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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Let’s conclude the topics of status and status anxiety, at first explaining how the negotiator can gain power and bargaining strenght during a negotiation and secondly, how status anxiety can arise in contracts negotiations.

Knowing how to deal with new people and companies, that often have large dimensions and a high economic and political power, means knowing how to propose one’s own value as a partner (sale of the global image of the company, rather than the simple sale of a product) and this represents something totally new for many companies, a difficult horizon. 

Especially for SMEs, it is difficult to negotiate on an intercultural level. In fact, in the past they were used to relationships with fragmented and divided distribution networks, to individual customer, which were not very valuable, to scarce or weak competition, in which the leverage was mainly on the part of the producer, etc. For all these reasons these companies have serious difficulties in moving from sale to negotiation. Companies, moreover, got used to selling abroad through foreign agents, while losing a large part of the margin towards distribution, without ever really deal with real intercultural negotiations. 

Competitive negotiation requires the creation of bargaining strength. The contractual strength depends on how unique the offer is (or on the lack of valid alternatives or substitutes) and on how much the counterpart needs the product you are selling, everything obviously mediated by communication skills. 

Managing negotiations requires preparation and role-playing. A single word can ruin a meeting

To sum up, in negotiations the competitive advantage depends on the bargaining strength. For the seller or proposer, strength depends on: 

  • the uniqueness of the offer: an offer that cannot be compared to other offers has more value; 
  • the lack of immediate alternatives: the impossibility of finding satisfaction elsewhere, even with reasonable effort; 
  • the lack of goods in substitution (different goods having a similar function, e.g.: train instead of plane); 
  • the urgency of the recipient’s need: a strong need generates less restrain and uncertainties; 
  • the proposer’s prestige: there are fewer barriers related to first glance evaluation of the partner if the proposer possesses prestige and credibility;  
  • the strength of the offer objective factors: performance features, performance technology and its real service; 
  • valorisation and communication abilities: in fact, these leverages cannot be automatically activated, even in the presence of a high degree of power, because activating them requires skills of valorisation and communication
  • the best possible use of bargaining strength (for those who make the offer) is positively related to the specific communication skills level of the negotiator (seller’s negotiation skills), while is negatively related to the buyer’s competences (buyer’s skills). 

Contract’s negotiations are one of those contexts, in which negotiation conflicts become more evident. Each contract clause can bear cultural meanings, culturally unacceptable positions, attacks on the interlocutor’s face and image. 

Legal culture is one of the most rigid culture in any national reality, and those who draw up contracts often takes an uncompromising and disrespectful position towards others’ cultures. 

One of the first concerns of intercultural negotiators is therefore not to spoil the result of long and tiring verbal and personal negotiations with written elements (e.g.: documents, correspondence, contracts, etc.). 

Let’s look at a real case: we will take into consideration some contract clauses proposed by an English IT company (here called XXX for privacy reasons) to an Eastern European correspondent, and its interpretations and reactions: 

Original Text Perceived meaning and the counterpart’s comments 
You may not substitute the IT specialist for another IT specialist without XXX prior written consent “We send whoever we want to assist other companies. All our technicians are qualified, we have already given them all possible and imaginable guarantees, now they must also approve of our technicians, from time to time, but who do they think they are?” 
During the period of this Agreement, you are retained on a non-exclusive ‘when-needed’ basis to perform the Services at such times and at such locations as XXX shall direct from time to time. “But then we are not their partners, we are only there ‘when needed’. Are we, their servants? They talk about partnerships a lot and then write the opposite” 
You shall be responsible for rectification at your own expense of any work which in the reasonable opinion of our company or any of its clients was unsatisfactory  “Are we crazy? And if customers are dissatisfied because there are no spare parts, ‘cause they do not send them to us, what do we do? And then just for an “opinion” made by them or by one of their customers, who’s in a bad mood, we have to redo everything? But what are they thinking?” 
XXX will pay for economy class air or train travel But look at these whore-goers! They are hunting foxes in fifty against a poor beast and now they want to send us around in second class, they will see … 

Every legal clause, like every conversational move, can be read as an approaching move, a loosening move, a distancing move or a neutral move, depending on the relational value it assumes and the presuppositions it contains. The highlighted clauses are evidently all received as moves of superiority, acts of force and submission. 

The outcome of these clauses, and many other clauses, that are part of the English contract – in the real case – generates the counterpart’s refusal to sign this contract. 

No company with a certain reputation in the market could ever agree to sign clauses that compromise its image so heavily. 

Yet, the contract was actually drafted by one of the leading London law firms, which is evidently completely ignorant about intercultural and relational values of legal contracts. 

One of the basic principles of semiotics is that every “sign” (a clause, a sentence) is not only an external form, but it also takes on a meaning. 

There is therefore an intercultural legal semiotics – a relational contract law, a science studying the relational values of contracts – that deals with the contracts relational meaning, avoiding disasters such as those shown in the example. 

A correct negotiation must not only protect the proposing party, but it must also safeguard the counterpart in its identity. 

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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  • defensive counter-moves
  • re-balancing the situation
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  • status negotiation
  • avoidable statements
  • culture evaluation of status
  • bargaining strenght
  • bargaining power
  • proposing one’s own value as a partner
  • competitive negotiation
  • negotiation leverage
  • offer uniqueness
  • lack of alternatives
  • recipient’s need urgency
  • proposer’s prestige
  • skills of valorisation and communication
  • legal culture
  • contract clauses
  • contract negotiation
  • contract interpretation
  • approaching moves
  • loosening moves
  • distancing moves
  • neutral moves
  • compromising the company’s image
  • moves of superiority
  • acts of force
  • acts of submission
  • intercultural legal semiotics
  • signs bear cultural meanings
  • protecting the proposing party
  • safeguarding the counterpart’s identity 

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

__________

Today’s topic is about status, which is difficult to achieve, but even more difficult to maintain. This feeling of uncertainty related to these difficulties in negotiation gives rise to status anxiety, which can negatively affect the outcome of a meeting.

Here are some definitions that Alain De Botton (2004) provides with respect to status anxiety. 

Status 

– The position of a person in society; the word derives from the supine statum of the Latin verb stare. 

 – Strictly speaking, the term refers to the legal or professional position that a person has within a group, for example to his marital status (married) or to his rank (lieutenant). In a broad sense, it indicates the value and importance that this person assumes in the eyes of others: and this is the meaning that interests us most. 

– In the transition from one society to another, the categories that possess greater social prestige change … from 1776 until today (vague but indicative term…) status has been increasingly associated with economic success. 

– The effects of a high social position are gratifying; we have money, freedom, space, time, comfort, and, last, but not least, the feeling of being loved and esteemed when others invite and flatter us, laugh at our jokes (even those without humor) and show us deference and consideration. 

– For many people a high social position represents one of the most coveted assets, even if there are only a few that would be willing to openly confess it. 

Status anxiety 

– The fear – sometimes so nagging as to compromise entire existential phases – of not corresponding to the models of success proposed by society and, consequently, of losing all dignity and respect; The suffering induced by the fear of occupying very low rank in the social scale or of being downgraded. 

– This anxiety is caused by various factors such as periods of economic recession, redundancy, promotions, retirement, conversations with colleagues in the same sector; but also, by successful people who attract the interest of the press or by friends who have had better luck than us. It is often associated with feelings of envy, even if it is usually not confessedand can lead to unpleasant social consequences; therefore, the signs of this inner drama are scarcely evident and are generally limited to the thoughtful gaze, the stunted smile and the unwarranted silence with which we welcome news of other people’s successes. 

– If the place we occupy in the social ladder makes us feel concerned, it means that the consideration we have of ourselves largely depends on the idea that others have of us. Unlike a few exceptional characters, such as Socrates or Jesus, we need to know that the world respects us to be able to accept ourselves. 

– The fact that the status, already difficult to conquer, is even more difficult to maintain over the course of a lifetime is very unfortunate. If we exclude those societies in which status is established at birth – for example for reasons of noble descent – one’s status usually depends on what one manages to achieve in life. Moreover, there are many possible causes of failure, such as the lack of self-knowledge, macroeconomic factors and others’ cruelty. 

– Moreover, this failure originates humiliationdevastating awareness of not being able to convince the world of our worthwhich condemns us, on one hand, to consider with bitterness those who are successful, and, on the other hand, to be ashamed of ourselves. 

Thesis 

– Status anxiety can generate suffering. 

– The desire to reach a higher status can have, like all desires, its usefulness: it can lead us to value our talents, to improve ourselves, to avoid extravagant and harmful behaviours and to favour social aggregation based on a common system of values. But, like all desires, if exasperated, it can kill. 

– Understanding this anxious condition and talking about it can be the most effective therapeutic approach. 

Therefore, we should not be surprised if in a negotiation both sides try to assert their status and suffer from status anxiety. However, we must ask ourselves which mechanisms are useful for negotiation, and which ones are destructive. We must ask ourselves – and know how to recognize – others’ mechanisms of climbing to status and conquering power in negotiation, and the defensive counter-moves. We must consciously avoid making status anxiety predominate and strive to seek a negotiating solution that is useful for both parties. 

The main questions of intercultural negotiation are therefore: 

  • Starting from my interlocutor’s culture point of view, what are the avoidable statements that can hit his/her status? 
  • How can I re-balance the situation when my interlocutor puts himself in a superior position
  • How can I produce a positive image of myself and my company, without giving the feeling of superiority, consequently unleashing resentments and vengeful mechanisms? 
  • How does my interlocutor’s culture evaluate status; what confers status in that culture? 
  • How much of the negotiation time should you dedicate to negotiate status and how much should you dedicate to evaluate the topics for discussion? 
  • Besides the mutual acquaintance phase, when do status issues arise in the negotiation? While negotiating conditions? While fixing prices or logistics? in legal practices? Or in contract statements? 

To be continued…

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

__________

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  • What are the 5 stages of negotiation?
  • What is effective intercultural negotiation?
  • What is intercultural negotiation?
  • working on attitudes
  • working on skills
  • World’s most famous expert in intercultural communication
  • World’s most famous expert in intercultural negotiation
  • Status
  • Status achievement
  • Status Anxiety
  • conquering power
  • feeling of superiority
  • climbing to status
  • defensive counter-moves
  • re-balancing the situation
  • superior position
  • status negotiation
  • avoidable statements
  • culture evaluation of status

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

__________

In this article I will examine 2 important topics of intercultural negotiation communication: the first concerns the personal image management, while the second one is related to the superiority-inferiority conflict.

In every negotiation comparing respective statuses becomes inevitable. However, statuses are considered intra-cultural and not cross-cultural elements. We cannot assume that a person belonging to an “other” culture recognizes a status that comes from an unknown system.

Let’s observe this real dialogue between two colleagues at a restaurant, the first is Italian and the second one is American.

US negotiator: “In America my family is in the upper-middle class, we have a thousand square meter apartment in New York, but my neighbours built a mezzanine, doubling the airspace, if business goes well next season I can enter the upper class, and build a mezzanine too. My children have two PlayStations each, and I’m giving them a good education: for each hour of study I multiply x 2 their possibility of using the PlayStation, so if they study an hour I let them use the PlayStation for 2 hours, if they study 15 minutes I let them use it for only half an hour, timed.”

Italian’s response: “But do you listen to your children or do you time them?” (unspoken thought: you can also have a mezzanine of a square kilometre, but for me you are always an asshole)

We are not interested here in discussing who is wrong and if someone is wrong, but it is clear that the American interlocutor is exposing a particular image of himself. He is expressing a “face” and he is indirectly exposing which are the status rules he believes in, and his convictions on the most appropriate pedagogical methods. For this person having a mezzanine and two PlayStations is an indicator of status. It is also clear that the Italian interlocutor does not accept these rules and that he measures personal value differently.

A more or less conscious management of one’s “social face” is part of every negotiation. However, on an intercultural level, sending out unconscious messages and producing damages during negotiations can be very easy.

Principle 20 – Managing one’s own status and the interlocutor’s status; “face” games and intercultural impressions management

The success of intercultural negotiation depends on:

  • the ability to create an adequate status perception within the interlocutor’s judgment system;
  • the ability to create positive impressions (identity management and impression management);
  • the ability to acquire status and “face” without resorting to undue attack mechanisms, that can damage others’ “faces” (“face” aggression or personal image reduction, absolute avoidance of top-down approaches);

Alain de Botton reports this passage which shows us how even at the highest diplomatic and negotiating levels one can be very ignorant of what transversal messages are being emitted and of the degree of damage that can be produced by knowingly or not knowingly placing oneself in a top-down position.

In July 1959, US Vice President Richard Nixon went to Moscow to inaugurate an exhibition dedicated to his country’s technological and material innovations. The main attraction was a life-size copy of the house of the average worker, with carpet, TV in the living room, two bathrooms, central heating and a kitchen equipped with a washing machine, a dryer and a refrigerator.

During various press services, the Soviet press, somewhat irritated, declared that no American worker could have lived in such a luxurious house – ironically named “Taj Mahal” by Soviets – and defined it a means of propaganda.

Khrushchev maintained a rather sceptical attitude when he accompanied Nixon to the exhibition. As he observed the kitchen of the house in question, the Soviet leader pointed to an electric juicer and said that no sane person would ever think of buying certain “stupid items”. “Anything that can help a woman doing her work is useful,” Nixon replied. “We do not consider women as workers, as you do in the capitalist system,” Khrushchev retorted angrily.

Later that evening, Nixon was invited to give a speech at the Soviet television and used the occasion to illustrate the benefits of the American way of life. Cunningly, he did not begin to speak of democracy and human rights, but of money and material progress. He explained that, thanks to entrepreneurship and industrial activity, in a few centuries Western countries had managed to overcome poverty and famine, which were widespread until the mid-eighteenth century and still present in many areas of the world. Americans owned fifty-six million televisions and one hundred and fifty-three million radios according to what Nixon reported to Soviet viewers, many of whom did not even have a private bathroom or a kettle for making tea. About thirty-one million Americans lived in their own home, and an average family was able to buy nine clothes and fourteen pairs of shoes a year. In the United States, you could buy a house by choosing from a thousand different architectural styles, and o certain houses were often larger than a television studio. At that point Khrushchev, sitting next to Nixon and increasingly irritated, clenched his fists and exclaimed “Net, Net! “, while apparently adding in an undertone ” Eb ’tvoju babusku” (Go fuck your grandmother).

What clearly emerges from this passage is the (perhaps) unwitting offense to poverty that Nixon transfers to Russian people, placing himself in a top-down position, superior position vs. lower position.

For too many times, negotiators do not realize that they are performing an “abuse of dominant position” (displaying excessive superiority that damages others) or practicing a “presumption of dominance” (thinking of oneself in superior terms).

Communication reveals self- conceptions and relationship conceptions even though the participants do not want to reveal them.

Let’s see another example and observe some passages of this email:

Dr Trevisani

Two colleagues and I are close to retirement and after an intense activity as top managers in various multinationals we decided to create an external company. I ask you to be our consultant and to provide us with your valuable advices to help us build a successful company. Do your best to check if you can come to advise us in Turin. Anyway, send me a commercial offer because I must show it to my partners for approval. Please send me also your CV. I will present it to my two partners, so as to persuade them to approve your advice. This consultancy intervention must be done within January 2005.

Thank you in advance for your help.

signature

This message intercultural problem is of psycholinguistic type and it concerns the use of the imperative and the enormous quantity of presuppositions present.

Let’s look at some implicit assumptions linked to this message:

  1. some people believe that a commercial offer can be made without having analysed the problem and the necessary intervention times;
  2. Others think that the recipient will send his CV to someone he/she does not know, without being informed on how and for what purposes this CV will be used (it takes only a few seconds to write a writing a reason on an email, but the real motives can be different);
  3. There is also the assumption that the customer can dictate times and that it is the recipient, and not the writer, who must make the trip;
  4. It is taken for granted that the recipient wants to work for the sender and that he approves intentions and projects.

The apparently courteous message reveals a culture that is not exactly courteous.

In the Italian culture being in the “buyer” position is a strength and working for years in a multinational company makes the buyer acquire a strongest attitude of strength and superiority.

The sender actually expresses an aggressive multinational culture, which is based on the belief that a multinational can “rule the world”, a way of being consequently absorbed by its managerial education. However, the Italian culture is not unique, and we cannot think that the prototype of the multinational’s dominance over a consultant, or of a buyer over a possible seller, is accepted by everyone.

The ALM method culture believes that there must be a certain degree of values commonality ​​for a project to start.

We must always consider that our culture is not automatically the culture of others. The right strategy is therefore to avoid putting the counterpart in conditions of presumed inferiority or to assign automatic superiority.

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

__________

For further information see:

TAGS:

  • ALM business method
  • active training
  • awareness of one’s role in negotiation
  • Best coach in intercultural communication in the world
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  • dialogue between companies
  • different cultural approach
  • different cultural context
  • direct line of communication
  • disagreements
  • Effective intercultural negotiation techniques
  • face-to-face communication
  • front-line communication
  • high-context cultures
  • How cultural differences affect negotiations?
  • How does culture influence negotiation?
  • intercultural communication
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  • intercultural negotiation training
  • intercultural training
  • Intercultural Training Consultants
  • know-how
  • low-context cultures
  • misunderstandings
  • negotiating rules
  • negotiator’s growth
  • open communication
  • transparent communication
  • What are the 5 stages of negotiation?
  • What is effective intercultural negotiation?
  • What is intercultural negotiation?
  • working on attitudes
  • working on skills
  • World’s most famous expert in intercultural communication
  • World’s most famous expert in intercultural negotiation
  • personal image management
  • superiority-inferiority conflict
  • Status
  • personal beliefs
  • personal convictions
  • status rules
  • social face
  • unconscious messages
  • transversal messages
  • face” aggression
  • personal image reduction
  • avoidance of top-down approaches
  • abuse of dominant position
  • presumption of dominance
  • implicit assumptions
  • presuppositions
  • aggressive multinational culture
  • values commonality