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Utilizing the Three Colors of Worldview to Improve Your Negotiation

Updated: May 5, 2023

Three Colors of Worldview series: Mastering the art of negotiation in an intercultural environment

The Three Colors of Worldview are cultural lenses through which people view the world, which shape some of the core beliefs and assumptions that our behavior is based upon.

In an Honor/Shame culture, being seen as honorable is more important than being seen as right. In a Power/Fear culture, maintaining positional power is more important than being shamed. In an Innocence/Guilt culture, being right according to a set of explicit rules is usually seen as being synonymous with being honorable.

Each of the worldviews are present in every person and culture to a certain degree, and each of them have positives and negatives. To communicate effectively, you should know what lenses you look through, and how to communicate to people that look through different lenses.

A generalization about the Three Colors in negotiations is that Innocence/Guilt oriented people are more task and outcome oriented in their negotiation style, while Power/Fear and Honor/Sham oriented people are more Journey and Relationship oriented.

The Importance of Seniority

People from an Innocence/Guilt oriented culture are usually trained to be outcome-based, and that typically goes together with a clear mandate which trumps their level of seniority. For example, a business developer in an Innocence/Guilt oriented region might not be a very senior person, but if they are given the mandate then they are accepted as a representative.

However, in an Honor/ Shame or Power/ Fear environment, you typically send the most senior person available to the negotiating table. If a decision needs to be made, the senior person would need to be in the room to make it, and he or she also needs to be in the room if you want to show your prospective clients that you are serious about the deal.

Because sending the most senior person available to the first couple of meetings is not the norm in Innocence/Guilt oriented cultures, it is easy to send the wrong message by sending someone less senior. This is where miscommunication often begins in negotiations between Innocence/Guilt orientation and Honor/Shame or Power/Fear oriented countries.

The Importance of Relationship

Another way that communication can break down is in expectations of the amount of time spent on building relationships and going over the details of the deal. Honor/Shame and Power/Fear oriented cultures tend to prioritize the relational side of things. In the initial stages of negotiation an Innocence/Guilt oriented negotiator would tend to focus on proving the value proposition, while the Honor/Shame negotiators were trying to answer the question, "Is it worth our while to engage with the people on the other side of the table?"

This can result in a serious disconnect. If the Innocence/Guilt party is focused on the value proposition too early they might actually lose the meeting because the other party will not be ready to talk "business" without a personal connection.

Common feedback from negotiation rounds is that negotiators in Honor/Shame and Power/Fear oriented societies need to invest triple the time that Innocence/Guilt oriented societies spend up front, but might spend very little time during the meeting on the business deal. The process is to get to know the other party and figure out if they are trustworthy, reliable, and “good to be seen doing business with.”

KnowledgeWorkx develops the ability to accurately diagnose the human terrain through Inter-Cultural Intelligence, the Three Colors of Worldview and the 12 Dimensions of Culture. To begin your culture learning journey, Contact us or get our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.



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