Advanced Negotiation Strategies and Concepts: Identify Your Negotiation Style

Use your negotiation style and tendencies and come out on top

By on / Negotiation Skills

negotiation style

Have you ever wondered if your negotiation style is too tough or too accommodating? Too cooperative or too selfish? You might strive for an ideal balance, but, chances are, your innate and learned tendencies will have a strong impact on how you negotiate.

Wise negotiators seek to identify these tendencies and enhance them according to the situation.

Individual differences in “social motives,” or our preferences for certain kinds of outcomes when we interact with other people, strongly affect how we approach negotiation, according to Carnegie Mellon University professor Laurie R. Weingart. Drawing on the social motives that drive our behavior, Weingart and other psychologists have pinpointed four basic negotiating personalities:

Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Four Basic Negotiator Personality Types: How These Archetypes Impact Your Negotiation Style and Choice of Negotiation Strategy

Individualists concentrate primarily on maximizing their own outcomes and show little concern for others’ outcomes. According to studies of businesspeople and students, about half of U.S. negotiators have an individualist negotiation style. Instead of creating value, individualists tend to claim it, argue their positions forcefully, and, at times, make threats.

Cooperators focus on maximizing their own and their counterparts’ results. Composing about 25% to 35% of the U.S. population studied, cooperators are motivated to ensure that each party in a negotiation receives her fair share. Cooperators are more open to value-creating strategies—such as exchanging information and making multi-issue offers—than individualists are. (Note that although individualists outnumber cooperators in the United States, in other cultures, cooperators can be more prevalent than individualists.)

Competitives are motivated to maximize the difference between their own and others’ outcomes. Because of their strong desire to “win big,” competitives—about 5% to 10% of U.S. study participants—tend to engage in behavior that’s self-serving and that blocks collaborative solutions.

Altruists, a rare breed in studies of American negotiators, strive to maximize their counterparts’ outcomes rather than their own. Though few of us are pure altruists, virtually all negotiators behave altruistically under certain conditions, as when dealing with loved ones or those less fortunate than we are.

Is one negotiation style “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.

At the same time, claiming value and lobbying tenaciously for your position can be equally important negotiation strategies. So, strive for balance: focus on building a cooperative relationship and creating value, then work to claim as much as you can of that value for yourself.

Related Negotiation Skills Posts:
Win-Win Negotiations: Is Your Bargaining Style Holding You Back? – What changes can you make to your negotiation style that would lead to better negotiated agreements? This articles uses negotiation examples in real life to offer negotiating skills tips on how bargainers can maximize their gains at the negotiation table by tailoring their style to the negotiation scenario at hand.
Dealmaking Negotiations: How to Build Trust at the Bargaining Table – Building trust, the first component in a successful, long-term relationship, is as difficult as arriving at agreement, if not more so. Indeed, many aspects of successfully negotiated agreements involve ever increasing levels of trust between negotiating counterparts. In this article, negotiation advice is offered to help negotiators build trust with their counterparts at the bargaining table.
Negotiation Skills: Are You Really Ready to Negotiate? – Being prepared to negotiate is almost as important as being prepared for your negotiation. Learn how negotiators grapple with the mental aspects of bargaining and how to streamline your thought process in order to maximize value and reach negotiated agreement.
What If We Have the Same Social Motive at the Bargaining Table?
Article: Negotiation and Nonviolent Action: Interacting in the World of Conflict

Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Adapted from “Is Your Bargaining Style Holding You Back?” First published in the Negotiation Briefings newsletter, December 2009.

First published 2012.


3 Responses to “Advanced Negotiation Strategies and Concepts: Identify Your Negotiation Style”

  • One big disadvantage of some one who is a individualist is that people get tired of them. If you are always 100% driven towards your own goals, no one will want to do business with you.

  • Prisca N O.

    It was a thorough research, in family negotiations I am an example of an altruist negotiator. you can’t win your own family but take the best options possible.

  • Christopher N.

    The common mantra”It’s just business, it’s not personal” enables the third piece of the Dark Triad in human psychology by creating a justification for the removal of compassion during negotiations. Narcissistic, Machiavellian, and lacking empathy. This seems to be related to the large percentage of Individualists.


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