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French impressions
December 26, 2017 Negotiation Research

The French are well known for their sartorial style, but what about their negotiating style? Recently, researcher Sebastien M. Fosse of the University of Deusto in Spain and his colleagues analyzed 89 interviews and written impressions from French and Latin American students about their experiences negotiating with the French and collected the following general impressions:

An emphasis on hierarchy, rules, and formality. As compared to the more informal style of Latin Americans, French negotiators focus on drafting formal contracts that leave no stone unturned, negotiators from both cultures recounted. In addition, participants observed that the top leaders of French businesses are more likely to engage directly in negotiations rather than delegating to lawyers or lower-level managers.

Pride in France’s historical legacy of Enlightenment values. The sense of pride in French culture and history that negotiators observed in French negotiators played out as politesse—a keen respect for manners and traditions. But some participants (including French ones) viewed French pride as excessive.

Comfort with conflict. Perhaps due to the tumultuous nature of French history, including revolution and strikes, French negotiators tend to be particularly comfortable with conflict and resistance, some of the Latin American respondents believed. One respondent, for example, felt that the French tend to view conflict “like battles, instead of looking for mutual benefits.”

Of course, cultural observations should always be taken with a grain of salt, as they are filtered through the stereotypes, personality, experiences, and culture of the observer, not to mention the dynamics of the relationship. But these general impressions, coupled with the understanding that individuals are much more than their culture, may be an added tool to pack for negotiations
in France.

Resource: “When Dignity and Honor Cultures Negotiate: Finding Common Ground,” by Sebastien M. Fosse, Enrique Ogliastri, and María Isabel Rendon. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 2017.

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