Everyone is shaped by their individual experiences, providing unique tools and skills that influence how someone communicates. Whether via email, phone, text or in person, our distinctive style translates into our conversation, reflecting our personalities, needs and values to create a familiar pattern. Ultimately, this forms the foundation for our negotiation style, and understanding its weaknesses and benefits can help you utilise it effectively and improve.
A negotiation is a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement between two or more people with differing objectives, needs and wants. It is a valuable skill that helps us to settle a conflict and find a resolution that meets everyone’s demands, from the boardroom to the living room.
In particular, businesses and their employees rely on this skill to build strong partnerships, secure deals and manage disputes. That’s why understanding your negotiation style can be critical in helping you become more effective, competitive and successful. It allows you to appreciate your strengths and develop strategies to combat weaknesses.
A negotiator’s style falls into one of five categories; read on to learn more about each and their characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.
An accommodating negotiator’s primary goal is to maintain the relationship between themselves and the other party. It is also sometimes known as the “I lose, you win” model. They are not acting in their best interests but are trying to pacify, repair and build a rapport. It is an excellent way to minimise conflict and can be particularly useful when playing peacemaker and trying to unite two parties where one has been harmed by the other. Additionally, using it strategically can afford you accommodation from the other party further down the line and build trust and respect.
However, sometimes this passive negotiation style does more harm than good. Always giving in to demands, sharing requested information and looking to be liked by the other party doesn’t work in every situation and can cause you to give too much away and be taken advantage of by a more aggressive negotiator. Also, another party might distrust an overly accommodating style and find it patronising.
The avoidance negotiation style is about avoiding conflict at all costs; here, neither the relationship with the client nor the goal of the discussion is essential. It is also known as the ‘I lose, you lose’ model, and some perceive it as passive-aggressive.
Avoiding or withdrawing from negotiations has a place in every business. Using this style deliberately and consciously can allow someone to prioritise which conflicts are critical and which are trivial. People who use this style can appear neutral and objective and are skilled at weighing up time and energy versus the outcome.
Conversely, this negotiation style can damage the interests of a company and the relationship with the other party. Avoidance is a short-term solution to a long-term problem and can result in resentment and apathy on both sides. If ever, you should use this negotiation style sparingly in negotiations and invest in training and confidence building.
Collaborators are extremely valuable to a business or company for their ability to work as a team with the other party to find solutions and meet the needs of both sides. They are skilled at problem-solving and are innovative and creative. They operate on a ‘win-win model’ and can find solutions that satisfy everyone without sacrificing their business interests. It is the perfect style when a company seeks to overcome obstacles to establish an enduring relationship with another.
The downside is that it requires a lot of energy and money and is incredibly inefficient, especially when the timescale is critical. Uniting two parties' goals can be tricky, particularly if they are polar opposites. If the other company is not interested in collaborating, it can open a business up to the potential for a low-value agreement with a high-value investment.
Competitive negotiators are goal-oriented, ruthless and aggressive in how they approach conflict. The relationship with the other party is not a priority, potentially damaging rapport between long-standing partners. They are unwilling to compromise and approach every discussion with a “win-lose mindset”. Subsequently, it can lead to an impasse, leaving the conflict unresolved and, in extreme cases, losing the partnership altogether. It can be perilous for a business if the person is inexperienced, as it can cause irreparable harm to well-established relationships, and some may perceive it as bullying.
However, there is a time and place for this style. Using a competitive negotiator wisely can help to reach a conclusion quickly and avoid wasting time with short-term partnerships or goals. Similarly, they are helpful if the other side is playing hardball and is utilising a competitive negotiation style that presents a challenge. If you are a competitive negotiator, consider training to use alternative negotiation styles, such as collaboration or compromising, to maintain relationships and secure outcomes.
Finally, the compromiser is a neutral negotiation style that looks for mutually beneficial solutions to a conflict. Like hagglers, they want to meet in the middle, and everyone needs to have a clear idea of their priority goal and be willing to sacrifice less important ones. Compromisers partially value the relationship and the outcome and are eager to create a solution that ‘splits the difference’. This style is most valuable when the other party is a trusted partner, and there is a limited timescale to reach an agreement. It can also be effective against a stalemate, or deadlock if pressure from outside factors or collaboration has failed.
However, by asking everyone to accept a loss, both sides may feel dissatisfied and undervalued by the other. It also leaves the compromiser open to manipulation from competitive negotiators searching for any signs of weakness. If you rely on these techniques, it's worth training in collaboration and incorporating it into your negotiation style.