Negotiation styles in France

Written by Gernot Müller, Mehrdad Akbari, Laura Svalina January 2014. Posted in Int. Skills, Negotiations

Negotiation styles in France

Negotiating, as stressful and achievement-oriented as it sounds, is in actuality rather a common problem solving practice in the French business world, where people prefer to reach consensus. This is a big reason why French negotiations seem to take forever before reaching the bargaining stage. Frenchmen like to discuss and challenge every aspect of a proposal and constantly go over previously discussed topics to reanalyze every single aspect. Decisions can take a long time, and one is advised to remain patient.
Both parties are expected to engage in the negotiation process, and the French attitude towards the other parties’ requirements is cooperative as long as the requirements on both ends remain in balance. Soon one will find out, however, that the negotiation style does not always have to be a win-win approach. If French believe that aspects support their position, they will have no doubts in negotiating a win-lose situation.

Communication style in France
French like to fight out their differences, which might seem rude and aggressive. As a matter of fact, the French communication pattern follows the Latin style. Each individual ‘aime paraître’ (loves to show off). Negotiations can become quite emotional and sometimes louder in volume, but this does not have to indicate a sign of anger. The French are affective communicators who love to reason and will at various points question the others’ arguments (Katz, 2008). Visitors are advised to remain calm as this is not a sign of personal insult.
French business negotiators are skilled in using pressure tactics on their counterparts. They like to push negotiations towards final agreements. Common methods are the use of making final or expiring offers, applying time pressure or opening with their best offer. Once prepared for this it becomes possible to call the bluff.

Negotiation etiquette
Before the meeting, French negotiators spend much time on gathering detailed information about the facts, which they share without reservation whereas they also expect their counterparts to have information available to some extent (Katz, 2008). All in all the negotiating process in France contains an extended discussion about small details before the bargaining stage of a negotiation. When setting a price, negotiators should keep in mind that French people (in all aspects of life) strongly dislike haggling and the price does not move by more than 25 to 30 percent between the initial offers and the final agreement. A first bid therefore should only be slightly lower than the final offer.
After having discussed several topics of the proposed agreement it is up to le patron, the high-ranked manager, to make a decision whether or not to accept an agreement and then to sign the very detailed contract. The French legal system follows the Roman and Napoleonic law. This is based on the Letter of the Law, which to a large extent means that things written down in a contract are set and not subject to changes. Therefore, every single agreement is written down in contract to ensure the validity of the agreement