You know the type: super-competitive, hard-nosed risk-takers always out to “win.”
You also know the opposite type: conflict avoiders. They dislike any conflict, especially the interpersonal kind. And they value peace and quiet above most everything.
How we naturally approach conflict impacts our ability to get what we want. Of course, these are general tendencies, and everyone exhibits some of each.
But we all have dominant tendencies, and knowing and effectively managing them will help you navigate often challenging negotiations.
I have found a continuum of negotiation personality types, with competitors on one end and avoiders on the other. In the middle, you find accommodators.
So how can you identify these and what should you do about them?
Start by asking a few colleagues to evaluate your personal style. Become more sensitized to your tendencies. Then find out your counterpart’s style. Contact others with whom they have negotiated. Past experience is a good predictor of future action.
In all your negotiations, identify the following:
Competitors generally exhibit the following characteristics: They enjoy conflict and competition; like to overtly control issues; are not great listeners and often have significant egos; and they use direct tone, language and body language.
How should you negotiate with “competitors?”
First, the overall strategic elements of negotiation universally apply to different personality styles. In all negotiations, information is power, and you want to get it. And you should always maximize your leverage, find independent standards, design an offer and concession strategy, and control the agenda.
With different styles, however, you should emphasize some elements more than others.
With competitors, emphasize the following:
• Ask and listen. Competitors love to talk and try to persuade. Let them. The more they try to persuade you they have the better case, the more negotiation power you’re getting. Find out their critical issues. Then negotiate them.
• Stick to your principles. Gain their respect. Competitors respect strength. But don’t necessarily do it in an adversarial way, although this might be needed at times. Instead, find out what standards underlie their offers. Then compare them to your own. And stick to your guns.
• Frankly emphasize your leverage. Competitors will not be offended by direct language about your leverage. If your counterpart has a bad alternative to doing the deal with you, emphasize it. Lower your voice, look them in the eye, and just lay out the facts about both sides’ needs and alternatives.
Accommodators generally exhibit the following characteristics: They highly value good relationships, love to be liked, dislike open conflict and may unnecessarily concede if these are threatened; they exhibit effective listening skills and attitude reflects concern, compassion and understanding; and they fairly accurately show nonjudgmental understanding of others’ concerns.
How should you negotiate with “accommodators”?
• Resist the temptation to just talk and ask back. They are master information gatherers. They will sincerely express interest in you, and it will be tempting to share a lot of information with them. Resist the urge, at least initially. Determine early on what information to strategically share and what not to share. Then keep to your plan.
Also, don’t forget to get them to share information with you.
• Recognize the value in relationship issues. Be sensitive to the interpersonal dynamic that often develops with accommodators. They largely view the negotiation dynamic through how it impacts relationships. Often, they will shy away from choices they perceive as harmful to the relationship.
• Focus on independent standards. Accommodators love independent standards like market value, precedent, and expert opinions. Why? Because focusing on standards can take the focus away from competing personal opinions.
Conflict avoiders generally exhibit the following characteristics: They have a strong need to avoid conflict; are skilled at avoiding answering questions; are creative in exploring options that may avoid open conflict; and can appear unengaged.
How should you negotiate with “conflict avoiders”?
• Be patient. Why? Because it will take a great deal of time and effort to fully explore conflict-related issues.
• Focus on your long-term goal. It’s easy to get off track when your counterpart can skillfully avoid issues. Keep a laser-like focus on your goal, and persevere when necessary.
• Aggressively probe their interests. Aggressively probe conflict avoiders’ interests and find out what they need and want. They will try to hide these if they believe discussing them will lead to conflict. Your likelihood of success will increase the more you find out what they truly want and need.
Competitors. Accommodators. Avoiders. What are the parties in your negotiations? Find out. You’ll do better as a result.
Published August 2, 2002 The Business Journal