A to Z of Negotiation: S is for Style

Now, I’m not suggesting here that you need to be “stylish” to be a good negotiator but you do need to understand the different negotiation styles. Knowing your default style and recognising others' styles will assist you in being flexible in negotiations to get the best outcome in different situations.


Many people are now familiar with the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Styles model. This focuses on how individuals react in times of conflict. Do they compete, compromise, avoid, accommodate or collaborate? Because in general, people consider conflict as a different concept to negotiation, I prefer to use the work of Laurie R. Weingart who proposes a model of four negotiation styles. This more closely aligns with the non-dispute based negotiations.


Weingart’s model proposes four negotiation styles:

  • Individualists focus on maximising their own outcomes. They show little concern for others' outcomes. Instead of creating value, individualists tend to claim it, argue their positions forcefully, and, at times, make threats.

  • Cooperators focus on maximising their own and their counterparts' results. Cooperators are more open to strategies that create value—such as exchanging information and making multi-issue offers—than individualists are.

  • Competitives are motivated to maximise the difference between their own and others' outcomes. For them, winning is a relative concept. In order to out-do the competition, competitives tend to engage in behavior that's self-serving and that blocks collaborative solutions.

  • Altruists strive to maximize their counterparts' outcomes rather than their own. Though few of us are pure altruists, virtually everyone behaves altruistically under certain conditions, as when dealing with loved ones or those less fortunate than we are.


While we don't have any Australian research of the prevalence of these different styles, US research indicates that the split is over 50% of negotiators are individualists, 25-35% cooperators, 5-10% competitives with a handful of altruists thrown in the mix.


While no one style is "better" than another most research suggests that negotiators with a primarily cooperative style are more successful than hard bargainers at reaching novel solutions that improve everyone's outcomes. Negotiators who lean toward cooperation also tend to be more satisfied with the process and their results, according to Weingart. This is the style of negotiation that I focus on teaching.


That being said, claiming value and lobbying tenaciously for your position can be equally important negotiation strategies. As with many things in life, balance is the key - focus on building a cooperative relationship and creating value, then work to claim as much as you can of that value for yourself.


So what do you think your preferred negotiation style is?


If you would like to learn more about getting the best out of your (or your team's) negotiations, please contact us for a no-obligation discussion.

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