In case you’re wondering, that’s the line Mr. Miyagi gave Daniel in Karate Kid II when trying to explain why they were going to have to fight some bad dudes to the death. I was reminded of this recently while dealing with some folks who were from two different cultures. In this situation, though, it wasn’t so much about “honor” as it was about “respect.”

I had referred a very talented friend to a client for some freelance work but when my client tried to haggle with the price, my friend saw it as a sign of disrespect towards his craft and the deal fell apart. You see, in many cultures, “respect” is VERY serious business. And the lack of showing it, can be the difference between success and failure in a negotiation. If you’ve ever heard the term “saving face,” that’s what it’s talking about. The “win-win” situation is also a variation. You want a deal where both parties come out with their honor and dignity intact.

So how do you navigate this issue when dealing with people from other cultures? Here are some tips.

  1. If someone haggles with you, don’t take it personally. EVERYONE wants to pay less. It’s just a normal part of doing business. And remember, you don’t want that one sale, you want the “years of loyalty.” from the client.
  2. Don’t be dismissive. If you say you will get back to someone or meet with someone, make sure you do. No one wants to be treated like they’re irrelevant.
  3. And when you fall short, fail to show or outright screw up, admit to it, apologize and even throw in a “I meant no disrespect” and mean it. Then do your best to fix the situation.
  4. And if you’re the type who might feel like you’re being disrespected, consider the possibility that it’s nothing personal and keep your focus on the ultimate goal. Is it more important to feed your family or your ego?

5.Lastly, if the deal is that important or that big, do some homework about the other party’s company and culture. More information is always better than less. And showing you prepared in advance says that you’re taking the other party seriously. Besides, is there anything you CAN’T find on the internet nowadays?

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Andrew Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and there’s a whole chapter on being careful with other people’s pride. Basically, when you’re in any kind of negotiation, consider that the other person’s work, reputation or choices may be wrapped up with their pride. And getting what you want out of the situation, may mean giving up a little bit of yours.

Hope this helps you guys out there. I know it was a good refresher for me to write it. And please feel free to comment or disagree. I promise my next blog entry will be less serious!