Cultural tips: Portugal

Chief characteristics of the Portuguese negotiator

  • In general, Portuguese are excellent negotiators, judging cleverly the strengths and weaknesses of the other side and planning their arguments accordingly.
  • Their imperial past and inclination to distance themselves from the Spaniards have made them far more international in outlook. Their language abilities are excellent – among the Latins they are easily the best speakers of English. They are easily able to negotiate in English.
  • They negotiate individually or in small teams. Team members know each other well, and may be related.
  • They will achieve the best agreement for the company, but individual preferences, family and social position will be a background to the decisions.
  • Their multi-active nature leads them to link the negotiation to other transactions or business in which they are currently involved. 
  • They use surnames and titles, but are friendly, even charming from the outset.
  • They know what they want from the outset, but have an open mind as to the route they will take to achieve it.
  • They are suspicious by nature, but disguise this suspicion.
  • They are quick, perceptive and opportunistic; exercising maximum flexibility.
  • They often say they understand, when in fact they plan to understand.
  • They begin with a high price to leave room for manoeuvre later, but are quick to modify if they sense tension.
  • They state what they really want as late as they can in the negotiation.
  • They argue in a roundabout manner and will often change course dramatically during a negotiation and make a platform out of something they didn’t come to the table with. They will often throw an extremely imaginative proposal on the table to confuse the opponent or gain time.
  • They rarely turn down any business offered during negotiation.
  • They expect to pay and be paid promptly
  • Their communicative style is personal, eloquent, emotional, but more restrained than Italian or Spaniards.
  • They come to the negotiation well-informed about all aspects of the transaction.
  • They are experienced on a global scale. Centuries of trading with India, Africa and the Far East have taught the Portuguese to be flexible, devious, and realistic.
  • A lack of technology and resources often puts Portuguese in a disadvantageous position which they must compensate for with clever negotiation, resulting in a sophisticated approach.
  • Portuguese attach great importance to written documentation and are careful about the wording of contracts, which are often very detailed. 
  • They can be flexible regarding re-negotiation.
  • Portuguese are a very tolerant, internationally-oriented people and there are few taboos or restrictions in social and business life. 
  • They are not touchy about race or religion, though their attitude to Spaniards is somewhat ambivalent. Distinguish them clearly from their Spanish neighbours.
  • Establish closeness. Show compassion at all times. Never appear rough or brusque.
  • Give ready advice when it is asked for and avoid confrontation at all times.
  • Be prepared to listen at length. They can be long-winded.
  • Listen for subtlety – they occasionally want you to read between the lines.
  • Show good planning and early trust.
  • Know something of their spectacular history and achievement. They are very proud of their country without over-doing their nationalism. 
  • Their architecture, art and literature are rich – it is wise to appreciate them.
  • Portuguese believe they live in a fortunate environment and it is wise to be able to share this delight with them, rather than look for deficiencies.

Source: CultureActive by Richard D. Lewis

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