According to the Thomas Kilmann model of conflict styles, people have 5 different communication styles and these tend to correlate well in negotiation. Based on our own experiences, internal dialogues and interpretations we show up and react differently in our negotiations. From these patterns of communication, five distinct negotiation styles have emerged: competing, collaborating, compromising, accommodating, and avoiding. When we negotiate, we exhibit a tendency for a particular style. Expert negotiators know how to use their primary negotiation style to their advantage and how to recognise the style of others. Awareness of these styles will help you in your journey to improving your negotiation skills.
Let’s take a look at these 5 styles.
- Competing – Win/Lose
A competitive negotiation style follows the model of “I win, you lose.” Competitive negotiators tend to go all out to get the deal closed – even if it comes at the expense of another person or entity. They have scant regard for the other parties and tend to have a calculated approach to achieving results. They are focused on achieving short-term goals quickly. They are motivated by the feeling of winning at all costs. This attitude can burn relationships and blind them to bigger, better outcomes.
Competitive negotiators tend to show up ready for a battle and will use any tool to try and intimidate their counterparts and increase their chances of winning. For short-term, one-off distributive types of negotiation, this style can work well. You will find these styles prevalent in highly competitive industries. Although in today’s interconnected world, it may not always be in one’s favour to build a reputation as an overly competitive negotiator. Business relationships might break, and a company’s reputation may tarnish if a negotiation style is too competitive and crosses the line into bullying. If you are a competitive negotiator, remember. business is as much about building strong relationships as it is about closing deals.
- Accommodating Lose/Win
Accommodating negotiators focus on maintaining relationships with the other party. They place more emphasis on the relations than the outcome. To them, success is based on how well each party was able to get along before, during and after the negotiation. They will often make concessions in order to keep things flowing, sometimes these concessions may not be in their favour. Accommodating negotiators tend to talk a lot and aim to win people over by sharing information in the hope of building empathy and equanimity. This does not always work and can leave this negotiator open to being ripped apart, especially by a competitive type. Accommodating negotiators work best in situations when your company or team needs to diffuse tensions or rebuild broken bridges with other entities.
- Compromising Win Some/Lose Some
Compromise is not always a good word to use in a negotiation, because it indicates that neither party gets what they wanted but in fact “settled” for the middle ground. People who compromise are never entirely disappointed or satisfied with the outcomes of a negotiation. The idea is to exchange concessions and seek a quick halfway point solution, which tends to end in moderate satisfaction of both parties’ needs. For example, I want to pay 100€ for a ticket and you want to sell it for 200€, we compromise on 150€. This is characteristic of market-style bargaining and works when the parties are short on time and want to maintain a cordial relationship.
- Avoiding- lose/lose
Avoiding negotiators dislike any form of conflict and tend to exhibit ambiguous behaviour during the negotiations. They will typically not raise their objections to an agreement during the negotiation but will be slow to follow up or may not even hold up their end of the deal once the interaction has been concluded. Their conflict avoidance can easily be interpreted as apathy or ambivalence, by their counterparts. This can cause rifts in interpersonal business relationships. Avoidance is a typical reaction when a negotiator is pitted against someone who is highly competitive. A high-stakes negotiation is not the place for an avoider to shine. They work best in negotiations where there is more emphasis on getting the process right and less high stakes in the relationships.
- Collaborating – I am satisfied/You are satisfied
In EIN we steer away from using terms that refer to winning or losing. A Collaborating negotiator looks to creatively brainstorm novel, elegant outcomes for both parties. They focus on making sure all parties have their needs met in an agreement. They value strengthening, establishing, and building relationships without compromising their company’s best interests. Collaborating style requires patience and a commitment to clear assertive communication. While the collaborative style may not make sense in all negotiations, this mode can be especially effective with business situations because of the long-term nature of the relationships internally and externally, as well as the need for strong substantive negotiation outcomes.
Although there are many advantages to the collaborating style, we must recognise that there are some disadvantages, especially when negotiating with a competitive style. There is a danger that the ”winner takes all” approach of the competitor will leave the company making unwanted concessions and losing out. In these cases, it is important to recognise the style and keep track of the agreement’s value by asking what are the objectives of the negotiation.
The best negotiators have a predominant style and have sufficient knowledge and experience working with the other styles to be able to work effectively with each one. What is your style?
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