Gray is the New Black:
One core Confucian value is respect for elders. In the West, elders are certainly respected, but arguably not to the highly deferential level seen in many Asian regions. While those in the West may aspire to be, act and appear youthful, signaling innovation and adaptability, many in Asia aspire to be seen as older rather than younger, signaling the need for greater recognition and respect.
If a negotiator is relatively senior in age, but appears relatively youthful in appearance, this may also lead to mixed signals since the Asian counterparty may simply interpret the counterparty to be relatively young, which as mentioned, is not considered as great a virtue in Asia as in many Western countries.
So what is the most clear signal of having reached a mature age? Gray hair, among many other things. This will serve as a constant visual reminder to the Asian counterparty of that particular negotiator’s age, and thus, presumably senior status and need for recognition and respect.
As such, the takeaway should be that your negotiation team should be composed of at least some senior figures—preferably with shades of gray–when negotiating in Asia.
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