How would you characterize your negotiating style: Are you collaborative, competitive, or compromising?
If you have trouble answering that question, you’re probably not alone.
That’s because skilled negotiators typically take on all these styles during a negotiation:
- They listen closely and collaborate to create value.
- They compete for the biggest slice of the pie.
- They make compromises when necessary.
Putting labels on negotiating style can be a mistake in negotiation skills training, writes Marquette University Law School professor Andrea Kupfer Schneider in a recent article for the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy.
Schneider notes that when teaching negotiation in the past, she would educate her law school students on the most common negotiating styles, debate their merits, and then urge the students to build their negotiation skills so that they could draw on various styles as a negotiation unfolds.
By contrast, these days, Schneider introduces students first to the negotiating skills that support the various negotiating styles rather than debating the effectiveness of these styles.
Adult professionals learn better by talking first about experiences and skills, and then focusing on framework or style selection, writes Andrea Kupfer Schneider.
Labeling negotiating styles – such as distributive, integrative, problem-solving, conciliatory, and so on – can help us learn general differences in how people view negotiations and behave during them, writes Schneider.
Labels also help negotiating researchers organize their thoughts around a shared language.
On the downside, however, labeling negotiation styles can be confusing in negotiation skills training, according to Schneider.
A student who is taught that an integrative (or value-creating or collaborative) negotiation style is superior to a distributive (or value-claiming or competitive) negotiation style may have a hard time understanding why both value-creating and value-claiming behaviors are helpful in negotiation.
In addition, the labels that describe various negotiation styles don’t map neatly onto the negotiation skills.
A highly competitive negotiator may belie the stereotype of this style by having a friendly demeanor and a strong sense of fairness. Moreover, many of the negotiation skills that are commonly taught in the classroom, such as researching criteria to back up fairness claims, can be used in both competitive situations and collaborative ones.
Rather than beginning by teaching negotiation students about various styles, negotiation instructors should encourage them to cultivate five specific skills, writes Schneider.
- Social skills, or intuition
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