Tactics across cultures: Crunch and Nibble

What You'll Learn
  • Crunching is ubiquitous across cultures, but be sure you are culturally correct, and prepare your counter crunches
  • Nibbling is used to varying degrees in all cultures, so prepare for the counter nibble and know how to end the other party's nibbling

Crunch and Nibble are Common Tactics Across Cultures

The Crunch

Should you use Crunches when negotiating with someone from another culture? Absolutely. Cultures which have millennia of international trading experience, such as Chinese, Indian, African, and Arab cultures, are well versed in the subtleties of negotiation techniques, to say the least. The key is to use them appropriately.

  • Avoid humorous or more aggressive Crunches and especially ones with metaphors (such as "When pigs fly") in cross-cultural environments.
  • Simpler, more sincere Crunches are best, and nonverbal Crunches can be very effective.
  • Minimize displaying real or feigned emotion such as amazement, disappointment, exasperation, etc.--and don't be influenced by it if they do!

Examples of more appropriate cross-cultural Crunches:

  • "Do you have any flexibility on that?"
  • "That's not what we expected."
  • "That might be difficult."
  • "Hmmm..."
  • "I need your help on that."
  • "I hope we can work together on this."

Nonverbal Crunches

  • Silence
  • Looking at your feet
  • Graciously call a break

Counter Crunches

  • "What can you work with?"
  • "Give me something I can take back."

Nibble — Managing concessions on the fringes.

Nibbling is acceptable in just about every culture; what is important is to be prepared for the other culture's style of Nibbling. Some groups, such as Chinese and overseas Chinese (those living in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere), are renowned for their prowess and persistence at Nibbling.

  • If Nibbling is a minor part of your culture's negotiation style, don't be caught off guard.


A Taiwanese developer for a project just outside of Taipei contracted with a Canadian architectural firm. The Canadian firm was quite gratified that the Taiwanese never attempted to negotiate the fee; they simply agreed and signed the contract. The Canadian firm proceeded and delivered their product as promised and on time. When they requested payment, however, the Taiwanese began to Nibble quite vigorously. The Canadians were caught completely off-guard.

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