The Role of Gratitude in Cross-Cultural Negotiation

By RED BEAR November 21, 2023 | 8 min read

To succeed in cross-cultural negotiations, negotiators pull not only from their expertise in navigating these tense discussions but also from their understanding of cultural differences and communication.

Here at RED BEAR, we teach a comprehensive cross-cultural negotiation methodology that provides your team with the skills, tools, and behaviors they need to cross the bridge of cultural differences and effectively reach agreements — no matter where they take place.

There are many different ways we communicate across cultures and across the globe. What works in New York might fall flat in Tokyo. Even so, one constant often runs through these often disparate and diverse ways of communication: gratitude.

Gratitude is one of RED BEAR’s core values, and in the spirit of gratitude, we’re putting this core value to work. For a limited time, we’re rolling back our workshop pricing to the original pricing from when we first started offering our world-class training 10 years ago — all to give back to our valued customers and celebrate a decade of RED BEAR. 


Let’s explore the role of gratitude in cross-cultural negotiations, unpack a common theory of cultural communication, and learn all about the power of genuine appreciation.

Understanding Cultural Dimensions and Their Impact on Negotiation

Cultural communication is quite complex.

To make the most out of cross-cultural negotiations, it’s important to build a way of thinking that focuses on openness toward different cultural perspectives.

One helpful tool in mastering this is the concept of cultural dimensions developed by Geert Hofstede. This framework for approaching cross-cultural communication acts as an analytical tool to explain the differences between cultures and outline how these variations impact the behavior of societies, especially in a business and negotiation context. 

Hofstede detailed a theoretical framework that breaks down cultural dimensions into several key categories:

  • Power distance
  • Individualism vs. collectivism
  • Masculinity vs. femininity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Long-term orientation
  • Indulgence vs. constraint

What does this look like in practice? Well, let’s look at power distance as an example — which is the perception of power within a society. 

Some cultures with a high power distance, meaning they place a high value on power dynamics and hierarchy, are often less likely to question authority. As a result, they might expect a clear hierarchy of power in negotiations. On the other hand, a culture with a lower power distance might expect the opposite and be more comfortable working without a clear hierarchy.

As you might imagine, having this information ahead of time during the negotiation planning process will make a significant difference.

But what about gratitude? How does this concept tie into the cultural dimensions?


Gratitude and the Cultural Dimensions

First, let’s think about one particular cultural dimension: individualism vs. collectivism. As the name suggests, cultures that put a high value on individualism will emphasize personal achievements and individual rights. A collectivist culture will value group goals, harmony, and consensus. 

Now, let’s add another layer. In addition to these cultural differences, there are also differences in the ways people communicate. In high-context cultures, it’s all about implicit communication and non-verbal cues. It’s more about what’s not said and the underlying message.

For low-context communication, it’s important to shoot straight and leave nothing to the imagination.

Where does gratitude fit in? In the right context, it can move mountains. It works to meet the demands of each of these various cultural contexts. Let’s say a negotiator is working with an international client who values reputation in a social context from a collectivist culture, also known as ‘face.’ You might seek to publicly praise that individual to enhance their reputation among their peers.

But, such expressions must be genuine and well-timed, reflecting an understanding of the cultural nuances at play, in particular, high-context.

On the other hand, you might come across a person from an individualistic culture who values direct communication. In this instance, gratitude is often expected to be upfront and explicit. For example, saying “great job” might fall flat. Instead, a specific piece of appreciation could hit the right chord. One might say, “Thank you for sharing your analysis on that particular point; I appreciate your perspective.” It’s to the point and tangible — something this person won’t soon forget.

Gratitude, then, can become an incredibly versatile tool in navigating the complexities of cross-cultural negotiations — but you need to build an understanding first to get it right.

That’s where RED BEAR comes in. 

Our cross-cultural negotiation training helps you plan effectively, develop a cultural awareness, and avoid the all too common “faux-pas” of cross-cultural communication.

Gratitude: A Cross-Cultural Conduit for Trust

We’ve learned that gratitude can be the key to bridging cultural differences and finding common ground. Its expression, while varying in form, signals respect and appreciation across various cultural landscapes — making it an essential tool in cross-cultural negotiations.

More than anything, though, it’s a critical element used to build trust. 

Gratitude transcends verbal language and resonates on an emotional level. In our earlier examples, the expression of gratitude helps meet the underlying needs rather than surface wants. For the collectivist, it’s all about being welcomed into the ‘in-group.’ For the individualist, gratitude powers the individual desire for personal achievement and recognition.

These bonds created through gratitude evoke positive feelings and transcend far past a simple transaction. Even the non-verbal signs of gratitude — such as a smile, a nod, or a respectful bow — can communicate sincerity in cultures where verbal expression may be understated.

When you express genuine gratitude, you can also neutralize negative misunderstandings. Mistakes happen. In cross-cultural communication, it’s easy to sway the course of a discussion with a genuine display of gratitude. 

More importantly, though, gratitude acts as a reflection of ethical conduct. 

When you demonstrate gratitude, you can signal fairness — a quality that is universally respected and essential for trust in any cultural context.

“When you demonstrate gratitude, you can signal fairness — a quality that is universally respected and essential for trust in any cultural context.”

If you can pair the expression of gratitude with actions, you can even reinforce your integrity, making you a more trustworthy and reliable partner in the eyes of the other party.

RED BEAR’s Approach to Gratitude in Cross-Cultural Training

RED BEAR’s innovative training programs are informed by a deep understanding of cross-cultural negotiation dynamics. We tailor our training to address the complexities of forging agreements across cultural divides, transforming potential challenges into successful collaborations.

Our approach ensures negotiators not only comprehend the substance of a negotiation but also the contextual frameworks, like hierarchy and communication styles.

Trainees learn to adjust their negotiation strategies and employ gratitude to foster flexibility with independent cultures or to allow consensus-building with interdependent ones. 

Additionally, our Cross-Cultural Negotiation Training will empower your team to enter any negotiation situation with confidence — especially in virtual negotiations, which have become a standard element of international business operations. We even offer Virtual Instructor-Led Training for distributed and remote teams, which won Selling Power’s Top Virtual Sales Training Award in 2023.

When it comes to the popularity of virtual conferencing, in April 2023 alone, the ubiquitous platform Zoom hit around 810 million unique global visitors. While certainly lower than numbers from previous months, there is no denying the sheer popularity of virtual meetings in the modern workplace.

But, building relationships in a virtual setting can be difficult. We present gratitude as a powerful tool in this process to help negotiators express understanding and appreciation even without the physical presence.

It’s all about blending communication channels effectively and using gratitude to reinforce clarity and confirm understanding in these virtual interactions.

Training doesn’t end when the workshop wraps up. We empower your team to be lifelong learners of cross-cultural negotiation by offering a wealth of resources to deepen their knowledge. Gratitude is an essential part of this learning process. It encourages openness, curiosity, and respect as your team takes these concepts out of the seminar room and into the real world.

Get the Cross-Cultural Negotiation Training You Need to Succeed

When it comes to cross-cultural negotiation, gratitude can be your secret power to transcend the cultural divide and make an impact. It's not just about expressing gratitude, though; it’s about showing it in a genuine way.

The right negotiation training matters. Once you build a comprehensive understanding of common cultural differences and develop a negotiation planning process that explores these nuances, you can enter negotiations with a deep understanding of the other party and a strategy tailored to their cultural needs.

What you get in return are optimized outcomes, win-win results, and long-lasting relationships. That’s the power of RED BEAR training. 

Our training gets results. In fact, for every dollar invested into our workshops, our clients receive, on average, $54 back. 

For a limited time, you can get even more value when you participate in our tenth anniversary pricing special. Get the same training utilized by 45% of the Fortune 500 for a price that just can’t be beaten.

Contact the RED BEAR team today to learn more about this offer.

Fill out our contact form and we will be back to you in no later than one business day.



In this episode of The Confident Negotiator Podcast, host Rob Cox and RED BEAR's Founder and CEO Chad Mulligan discuss the foundational pillars that have steered RED BEAR through a decade of success.
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