How would you describe your favorite negotiation techniques or negotiating style? Are you a cooperative negotiator who focuses on crafting negotiated agreements that benefit everyone, or do you actively compete to get a better deal than your counterpart? Perhaps you follow a third route, concentrating only on maximizing your own outcomes with little concern for how the other side performs.
In any given negotiation, your bargaining style has a stable component that comes from your disposition and personality; some negotiators are naturally more cooperative than others, for instance. Yet your negotiation styles will also fluctuate depending on the situation and the person across the bargaining table. For example, you’re more likely to focus on maximizing joint gain when you’re negotiating a joint venture with a trusted colleague than when you’re battling with other department heads over the annual budget.
Differences in social motives, or one negotiator’s preference for certain types of outcomes in interactions with others, affect how individuals approach negotiation. Psychologists have identified four basic types of social motives that drive human behavior in competitive situations such as negotiation (see also Integrative Negotiations/Win-Win Negotiations Trapped in a Competitive Cycle).
1. Individualists are motivated to maximize their own outcomes without concern for the outcomes of others. About half of U.S. negotiators studied (typically students and businesspeople) have an individualistic orientation, making this the most common group.
2. Cooperators, comprising approximately 25% to 35% of U.S. study participants, are motivated to maximize both their own and other parties’ outcomes and to ensure that gains are fairly distributed.
3. Competitives, comprising about 5% to 10% of U.S. study participants, prefer outcomes that maximize the difference between their own and others’ outcomes. They want to win-and by a wide margin. As a result, their behavior tends to be the most self-serving, and their lack of trust makes joint problem solving difficult.
4. Altruists seek to maximize the other party’s outcome without concern for their own. Altruists are difficult to find in today’s business world, so little research has been done on this motive in negotiation contexts.
Because relatively few people fall into the latter two categories, most of the negotiation research and negotiation literature has focused on individualists and cooperators. Carsten De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam, Seungwoo Kwon of Korea University, and Laurie R. Weingart of Carnegie Mellon University have found that individualists engage in more value-claiming behavior than do cooperators; specifically, they are more likely than cooperators to make threats (within limits), to argue and substantiate their positions, and to make single-issue offers (see also – Resolve the First Offer Dilemma in Business Negotiations). Cooperators are more likely than individualists to engage in value-creating strategies such as providing information, asking questions, gaining insight into the other party, and making multi-issue offers and tradeoffs. However, cooperators sometimes act competitively, just as individualists sometimes cooperate. Moreover, your counterpart’s approach can influence your own choice of strategy significantly.
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Related Article: Negotiation Skills – Which Negotiation Style is Best?
Adapted from “Negotiating Differences: How Contrasting Styles Affect Outcomes,” by Laurie R. Weingart (professor, Carnegie Mellon University), first published in the Negotiation newsletter, January 2007.
Originally published in 2011.