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Negotiating in Denmark

Have you ever considered how often you actually are negotiating? My guess is you are

doing it all the time. Our cultural detective Jane gives us some great insight.

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Jane Elgård Petersen

You might negotiate with your kids about bedtime and brushing your teeth every evening. Or you might negotiate with your partner what to buy for dinner in the supermarket.

During your workday, you also negotiate with many people - customers, managers, colleagues, suppliers, other counterparts, and whoever you work with during your workday.

A negotiation is not a question about a winner or a loser. Instead, it is a situation where you share your different points of view and hopefully reach an agreement.

As you might have learned, the Danes often are pretty impatient, so they want to get to the point quickly. The well-known saying "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line" can be challenged from time to time, as a serious professional negotiator might need to hear more well-substantiated arguments before a final decision is made. It might take time, but hopefully, the participants will reach the best result with all angles of a problem researched and to everybody's satisfaction and acceptance.

When it comes to international business negotiation, even highly-skilled professionals with years of experience may find their interpersonal skills lacking when doing business abroad.

In cross-cultural business negotiations, negotiators should consider nuances when operating in a global setting. These nuances cry out for awareness of the counterparts' nationalities and unique characteristics. This is not an easy job - however, at least try to learn the most basic tone in business negotiations. This is also a question of retaining your dignity and, most of all, your credibility.

Furthermore, it will also be an advantage to understand the participants' motivations. Political, religious, and cultural differences can be challenging in international sales negotiation. However, despite those differences, the negotiation process comprises four standard components.

Professional negotiators should be equipped with strategies to navigate the cross-cultural business field. One tool worth working with could be the four C's of negotiation: common interest, conflicting interest, compromise, and conditions. These four C-elements are common to all business deals regardless of cultural nuances.

Common interest

"You have something I want, and I have something you want."

Without a common interest or goal, there is no need to negotiate. That is the first step in any negotiation.

Conflicting interests:

"I don't agree with what you offer."

Problems arise when conflicts regarding payments, terms of the deal, key responsibilities, and the person saying no, surface. The proverbial "win-win" is always the most-desired outcome once the common interest is identified, but a win-win is not always achievable.


"This is what I'm willing to concede if you are willing to make concessions, too."

If the win-win is not immediately attainable (due to conflicting interests), compromise is needed, and compromise means some desired goals must be forsaken to achieve the common goal. This involves identifying and resolving all areas of disagreement.


The final criteria should reflect all conditions under which all parties will agree.

Any negotiation process is nuanced. Even when the criteria are finalised, things may change over time. A "fresh interpretation of the four Cs" may be needed when this happens.

Now back to the negotiations with your kids. This process might need a very high level of patience.

The common interest might be challenging to meet. For example, the child does not see the need for sufficient sleep and does not want to miss any of the family's social activities; however, the parents' experience says sufficient sleep is essential.

The conflict could be negotiating bedtime. You want some evening rest and avoid trouble with an exhausted and uncooperative kid the following day. The kid only wants to stay and be a part of the family evening activities, watching TV, playing games etc.

So what is the compromise here? Sure, the kid forgets any agreement and will do it the following day. Perhaps not a compromise, but the parents must be more persistent than they want to be to avoid the same situation every evening.

In this situation, it might be a great idea to come up with some common criteria, and hopefully, the parent will have the final word.

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