In a globally connected era due to developments in technology such as the Internet, video conferences, and electronic filing in the legal field, commercial mediation has also expanded itself from a strictly domestic realm. It is not uncommon to have mediation involving parties from different parts of the world who speak in different languages. These different “languages” in particular refer not only to the actual languages people speak but also to the particular negotiation styles the parties use because of their cultural background. As a result, although two parties may be negotiating in English or in another common language with the help of a translator, they will still likely be speaking in different “languages” of negotiation. Consequently, negotiators often doubt whether they want to do business with the opposing side because of the strange, insulting, or sometimes offending behaviors the prospective business partner exhibit during negotiations.
One of the most significant roles of a mediator is to clarify to the parties what each side truly wants. In order to do so, a mediator must listen carefully to first understand each side’s views. Without this initial step, a mediator can neither work to develop trust nor suggest creative ways to settle. It is, therefore, the mediator’s role to accurately interpret the different cultural languages the parties use in these cross-border commercial mediations.
In order to ultimately assist mediators dealing with parties from different cultures, three examples of negotiation styles that are culturally based will be explored; 1) anthropologist Edward T. Hall’s research on high and low-context communications arguing that a mediator should use the evaluative method when dealing with high and low-context parties, 2) Geert Hofstede’s five different cultural dimensions offering an example of how a mediator’s knowledge of the cultural dimensions can benefit mediation, and 3) the use of apology in Japan and Korea’s legal arenas to illustrate how mediation can become an ideal forum for the parties to employ the culture of apology.