No matter who we are, or how we express ourselves, communication is a central part of our personal and professional lives. The ways in which we communicate are partly shaped by our experiences and understanding, all of which affect the way we interact with others.
Our communication styles play an important role in how we negotiate. It can affect how we approach communications and handle conflicts with other parties. So understanding how we communicate and what impact that can have on how we negotiate can help us to be better negotiators with better outcomes.
When it comes to negotiations, there are classically five distinct styles that people tend to use to communicate. In this article, we will look at each style and explore its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to negotiations.
What Are Negotiation Styles?
Negotiation styles, sometimes known as behaviours, are useful parts of negotiations – both in business settings and in your personal life. They refer to the ways in which we communicate, including sentiment, style, and the words we use, which are shaped by our personal traits, experiences, and background. But we are able to change our negotiation style through knowledge and recognition.
Learning about how we communicate and how that compares to others can help us to identify aspects of each that work for us. The first step towards changing the way we communicate is to become aware of our style and other styles that are effective. We can then work on developing new skills and strategies to improve our current style, whether that is to be more effective at home or in a negotiation setting.
Why Are Negotiation Styles Important?
Whatever style we have naturally, our negotiation style can have a significant impact on the outcome of a negotiation. So part of being a good negotiator is learning which communication style to use for which situation.
The most successful negotiators can identify which style will be most effective while they are in a negotiation process and can adjust their approach. For example, a competing style may be appropriate when there is a clear winner and loser, while a collaborating style may be more effective when both parties’ interests are aligned around longer term interests.
What Are The Main Types Of Negotiation?
There are 5 common negotiation styles. These include:
By familiarising yourself with these 5 most common negotiation styles, you can become a better negotiator and achieve more favourable outcomes.
- Competitive Negotiator
Characterised by striving to win more for themselves than their counter-party, i.e. claiming value. Competitive negotiators prioritise their goals and focus on achieving them as quickly as possible. This means that they often disregard the needs or feelings of the other party – their only focus is to win.
These types of negotiators often rely on their positional power and influence to gain a competitive edge. This usually means that the outcome they strive to achieve is gained and they effectively ‘win’ the negotiation.
However, depending on the situation, this can lead to negative outcomes. Negotiators who only communicate in a competitive style risk damaging business relationships and ultimately, a company’s reputation. It can be perceived as being aggressive and in extreme cases, bullying, in order to get their own way.
Having two competitive style negotiators on either side of the table is likely to lead to gridlock as neither will concede.
- Collaborative Negotiator
Rather than focusing on the “I win, you lose” mentality of competitive negotiators, collaborative negotiators adopt an “I win, you win” mindset.
A collaborative negotiation style aims to find a balance between the needs of all parties. Usually, they achieve this by investing time in creating and proposing different solutions rather than settling for a quick agreement. They work to find a happy medium in the negotiation so that everyone’s needs are met, which allows for the creation of long-lasting partnerships.
This style is open to finding common ground. However, this style of negotiation may not be conducive to an agreement if they are up against competitive negotiators. So collaborative negotiators need to be aware of their position and not sacrifice their needs in the process to keep the other parties happy.
- Compromising Negotiator
The collaborative style of negotiation can sometimes be confused with the compromising style. But the key difference is that a compromising negotiator is more “I win/lose some, you win/lose some” than “you win, I win”.
A compromising negotiation style is when someone is willing to give up some of their interests to meet the other party’s needs, but not all. This can be useful when the parties involved in the process are of equal power. For example, an employee may compromise on the salary for other benefits like flexible working hours. This is the “I win/lose some, you win/lose some” outcome that a compromising negotiator seeks to achieve.
However, this can have its limitations. This style of negotiation can be taken advantage of by the competitive style who try to gain more of an advantage from the process.
On the other end of the specturm, an accommodating negotiation style often results in an “I lose, you win” outcome.
An accommodating negotiator yields their own needs and interests in favour of meeting the needs of the other parties involved. They often overshare information during the process in order to be liked and foster a positive relationship with others.
This style is good for situations when building a relationship with the other party is far more important than the actual outcome of the negotiation. For example, political negotiations that rely on creating long term allies.
However, in situations where a definitive outcome or agreement is needed, an accommodating negotiation style is not effective.
In a complete contrast, an avoiding negotiation style achieves a “lose-lose” model. These people avoid conflict and so avoid addressing issues completely, or uses ambiguous language so no agreement is achieved.
This type of communicator can miss opportunities and put strain on relationships in both personal and business settings. It generally leads to no negotiation agreement happening, which negatively impacts all parties involved.
Which Negotiation Style Is Best?
When it comes to being a more effective negotiator, it is important to consider using different negotiation styles to suit the situation. The most experienced negotiators understand all of the different styles and know how and when to use them.
Each time you are about to begin a negotiation, you should consider which style or which combination of styles will best suit your aim. To do this you should think about:
- Is it important to keep a relationship with all parties involved?
- What style of negotiators are others using who are involved?
- What is your natural style?
- What are your desired outcomes?