Russian business culture & style of negotiation. Part 2 of 3

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Russian people “lives under the sign of the heart”

Much deeper into the understanding of the Russian character and style of communication came Russian philosophers and writers – I. A. Ilyin, N. O. Lossky, N. A. Berdyaev, G. P. Fedotov, F. M. Dostoevsky, L. N. Tolstoy, A. I. Solzhenitsyn.  For them, the national character is not an abstract idea, but the idea of power, “a light beam that never leaves the heart.” The Russian character’s key archetype, defined by the “ray of light”, is that Russian people,” living under the sign of the heart”, have a state of empathy, compassion, and complicity in the existence of other people. This is diametrically opposed to the archetypal attitudes of domestic and Western negotiators.

Thomas Hobbes, observing the Western man in the conditions of life struggle (negotiations can be considered as a variant of such struggle), came to a disappointing conclusion: “Man is a wolf to man.”. Pindar no less categorically said that compassion and pity to the other people – is not aristocratic: “envy is better than pity.” Russian philosophy is based on the opposite idea, most pronounced by Seraphim Sarovski: “man is a joy for man”. Developing this idea Russian religious philosopher Nikolai Lossky said: “among the most valuable properties of the Russian people is a sensitive perception of other people’s mental States.”

Setting to empathy and big care for other people is the main feature of Russians during communication and in a positive way. Dostoyevsky called it “wide opened of the Russian spirit”. That is why we are better understood and accepted in the East than in the West: Eastern cultures never measure human relations solely under the sign of pragmatics. “Russian trait to find a person in a person with full realism” – these words of F. M. Dostoevsky can be considered a subconscious archetypal attitude of Russians to the negotiations.

It is no accident that in Russian folklore there are so many Proverbs about a good word addressed to another, because this is a good word that can reveal a person in a person: “A good word in pearls goes”, “a Good word is better than a soft cake”, “a Good word will unlock the gate”, “a Good word to say – a stick in the hand to give.” That is why it is so easy for us to communicate with people of different cultures (“Strangers in a minute meeting can feel close”, G. P. Fedotov noted) and therefore it is so difficult to conduct business and political negotiations, where a certain closeness and distance from the other is necessary (“keep your Tongue and your heart in a fist”).


The desire for reconciliation

Another strong archetype of the Russian character, clearly manifested in the process of communication, is the installation of consensus, the desire for reconciliation (“a bad world is better than a good quarrel”). Dostoevsky has formulated the Russian ideal as “wholeness, supreme reconciliation, and humanity”. It is no accident that Russian diplomacy has always acted as a mediator in the most difficult negotiations between East and West. V. S. Solovyov in his famous speech in memory of F. M. Dostoevsky emphasized that he represented Russia, using the vision of John the theologian about “a wife clothed in the sun and in torment, wanting to give birth to a son: a wife is Russia and the word she gives birth to a new word that Russia must say to the world. This word is a reconciliation for East and West.”It was the main archetype of the Russian national character in Dostoevsky’s representation. But today Russia is actively involved in the role of mediator in the negotiations on the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in the negotiations on the North Korean nuclear program, the Iranian nuclear dossier: the Russian word is still important for peace between East and West.


Russian long harness, but go fast

Professor Dmitry Efimovich Vasilevsky (1781-1844) owns the first Russian political science work on negotiations  – “It’s about the fact that you need to a negotiator for the acquisition of art to negotiate and confer about Affairs of the state” (1824). D. E. Vasilevsky draws attention to the fact that the most important quality of a negotiator – a diplomatic agent conducting negotiations – is the knowledge of anthropology (“human knowledge”): the negotiator must reveal the nature of man, to understand the direction of his natural talents, to notice his habits and understand the passions, to set them in motion and make obsessed with the passion of the enemy to act according to the intended purpose. Thus, from the very beginning, the culture of negotiations in Russia was considered as a humanitarian, anthropological science, where the first place is the attention to the human qualities and psychology of partners.

According to D. Vasilevsky, very important personal qualities of Russian negotiators are unwavering firmness of spirit and patience, the flexibility of character and ability to handle circumstances. Nothing prevents successful negotiations, as the volatility and the restless spirit of a negotiator, especially if he negotiates with the cunning men that are infinitely tiring his unsatisfactory answers and slowness of will. But such personal qualities of negotiators as honesty, frankness, sincerity, and conscientiousness deserve special attention.

According to the Russian negotiating culture, negotiations should have a “Spirit of Truth and Justice”. Cunning is caught by cunning, no cunning person is sure of the safety of the networks of cunning, and when the mask of pretense breaks, all the meanness falls on the head of a liar and a deceiver. Therefore, the importance of political Affairs depends on conditions sanctified by truth and justice. We agree that such deeply moral ideas, laid down by the founders of the Russian negotiation school, are very far from the traditions of Machiavellianism, represented in the Western culture of negotiations.

Russian negotiators tend to respect the status quo, they are characterized by a defensive-passive position with a touch of “rescue cunning”, and not an offensive approach in the spirit of the formation of the agenda (“measure seven times – cut once”). They are seven times will think before something to tell or offer (“run silent, run deep”, “Quiet who is always on the mountain”, “Haste makes waste”). But Russians are dynamic and offensive at the crucial moment of negotiations, especially if they feel serious danger (“Russians are harnessed for a long time, but go quickly”).

Ivan Ilyin figuratively compared the Russian character in the period of danger with the bear awakened from hibernation: if the bear is pissed off, he will stand on his hind legs, and then it turns out that he is two meters tall and one and a half wide. If that happens, hold on. Remember how the Munich speech of Vladimir Putin frightened Western analysts: many commentators came to the conclusion that “Russia again began to feel like a great nation,” and Vladimir Putin has since become one of the most influential people in the world.


The breadth of the Russian soul

Especially noteworthy is the quality of the national character, as the breadth of the Russian soul. Russian writer F. Russian Dostoevsky speaks about Russian soul: “the Russian man is wide, I would narrow it!”

Russian Solzhenitsyn also repeatedly emphasized the scope of the Russian soul, the breadth of Russian decisions, the willingness to help others, to share their Essentials, the ability to sacrifice and self-sacrifice. Russian open spaces, Russian scope are sung in songs and proverbs of the people: “than with crying to live, so with songs to die”, “or pan, or was gone”, “or a breast in crosses, or the head in bushes”. Russian unselfish mutual aid, especially in difficult times, saved other peoples, but, unfortunately, this is rarely remembered. The breadth and nobility of the Russian soul and today remain for other peoples our most mysterious and incomprehensible national qualities.

Unfortunately, it is in political negotiations that these qualities are sometimes openly exploited. Suffice it to recall how much Russians lost in the 1990s in negotiations with Western partners, voluntarily making concessions, even when there are not asked about it. For example, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher could not believe for a long time at the talks in Germany in 1991 that Mikhail Gorbachev without any additional conditions agrees to the destruction of the Berlin wall and the unification of Germany.

Another feature of the Russian character, which is clearly manifested in intercultural communication, is openness, straightforwardness, natural lightness, simplicity in behavior (“to a fair simplicity”, as noted by A. I. Solzhenitsyn).

The Russian heart values the warmth of informal communication more than it strives to comply with formal rules. The formalism of laws and norms has always been difficult for Russian consciousness because it is more important to have a living soul, a “living word” (V. S. Solovyov). However, in Russian culture since time immemorial,” the contract is more expensive than money”, “gave the word – keep it.”

It is difficult for Russian consciousness to understand the predominance of the rigid formalism of a written document over the power of words. During the negotiations, insufficient attention to the documentation of all agreements played a negative role in Russian political history. Suffice it to recall the well-known promise not to expand NATO to the East, given by Western leaders Mikhail Gorbachev at the talks in the 1990s, which was then treacherously violated. However, Russians are able to learn from our mistakes, and today it is Russia that often insists on the written execution of all agreements with Western partners.


A sense of heightened justice

A very important characteristic of the Russian culture of negotiation is the pursuit of justice. It is no accident that the word “truth” occupies a special place in the Russian consciousness, which is very difficult to translate into foreign languages. S. L. Frank noted that “truth” in Russia means both “truth” and “justice” and “moral and natural rights”. Russian people have always had a deep respect for those who can speak “the truth in the face.” As V. V. emphasized. Zenkovsky when the Russian man speaks the truth, it emanates from an authentic religious inspiration, to which all tend. Russian Proverbs say: “Believe not the power, but the truth”, “the Truth does not burn in the fire and does not sink in the water”, “the Truth always outweighs”, “the Truth is more expensive than gold”.

In Russian culture, the best answer to the intricacies of intrigue is the word of truth: “we must bring them to clean water.” – says the Russian negotiator and at the decisive moment of the dispute will not beat around the Bush. It is no accident in the Russian speech so popular phrases with the words “honestly talk”, “to tell the truth”, “let’s be honest.” The secret of Vladimir Putin’s charm is large that he is able to say a strong Russian word in the face of his opponents at the talks. The world community will long remember his response to the Americans about the creation of a missile DEFENSE system: “the American initiative is nothing but a proposal to “burn the house to cook eggs.”


To be continued 

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