Do attitudes matter in conflict resolution and negotiations?

Words representing various attitudes

As an experienced mediator and negotiator, I have asked myself this question. Researching it further I wanted to share with you what I have learned. Other experts in the field have offered advice too. Attitudes drive behaviors. There seems to be a consensus that yes, mental attitudes play a critical role in determining whether a mediation or a negotiation is successful. A deeper dive into the process is presented to help you and for you to help others that may be involved with self-determining mediations or negotiations.


Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation


According to this article by the staff at the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiations if you believe you can improve your negotiation skills you likely can. The research also shows that

“those who approach negotiations with a positive attitude and high expectations perform well.”

Regarding negative attitudes in negotiations these were some of the key findings. In a win-win type situation for participants that viewed a negotiation as a challenge did better than those viewed it as a threat. There was no significant difference if the negotiation had a win-lose scenario.


Attitudes and behaviors


This article by Jonathan Sims at Negotiation Experts ties together attitudes and behaviors. Here are excerpts from that article:

“Self-Limiting Expectations

We plan for failure even before we sit down at the table. We can be slaves to expectations.


  • “This always finishes up at the market price.”
  • “We’ve got a lousy case.”
  • “I know what he’s going to say, so there’s actually no point in asking.”
  • “This is going to be expensive.”
  • “He’s got the better position.”
  • “He might possibly go to any of our competitors.”
  • “We don’t have anything particular to offer.”
  • “The Germans/Japanese/Arabs always appear to be better negotiators than us.”


  • Very Timid demands.
  • Ready to give concessions.
  • Just going through the motions.

Comfort Seeking

Our avoidance of stress permits us to settle in the comfortable middle range or accept their first offer…


  • “If I make demands which are overly high, it’ll ruin the relationship.”
  • “I’ll seem too greedy if I ask too much.”
  • “I feel sick when I push for that bit more.”
  • “Yes, I’ll happily split the difference.”
  • “That’s probably fair for the two of us”


  • Not confronting demands.
  • Too simplistic concessions
  • The final minute concessions.
  • Getting things over and finished with as fast as possible.


The elder brother or the comfort-seeker.


  • “There’s always another sweeter deal, another day.”
  • “There’s no point in lathering up a sweat.”


  • Simple laziness.
  • Specific lack of preparation.
  • Easily surrender concessions.

Attitudes to Money

Too many people look at company money as a completely different animal from personal money. Symptoms are addiction to the expense account and company-paid comforts.


  • “Heck, it’s not all that much money, considering how much my company turns over.”
  • “Well, it’s not my money.”
  • “What’s one percent so long as I win the deal?”
  • Bargaining is too infra-dig.”


  • Very charitable concessions.
  • Shows off company-compensated status symbols.
  • Off-hand attitude of referring to money: thousands as “g” or “k”, or even millions as “mil”.
  • Ignores the final 1% opportunity.

Lack of Self-Control

The basic skill of successful negotiators is simply to be in control of themselves.


  • “What’s in several or more words?”
  • “How can it harm if I reveal our urgency?”
  • “What can it matter if I’m only several minutes late?”


  • Doing uncontrolled talking (particularly under stress).
  • Making indiscreet comments.
  • Unbridled non-verbal communication.
  • Unplanned lateness.


I am perpetually surprised at how frequently people regard to be seen as “driven” is a positive attribute. As I see it, one is either driving or is driven. Driven people can accomplish great feats but are seldom able to choose to ignore the drive.


  • “I’m going to get this sale if it’s the last thing I do.”
  • “This will make me best negotiation salesman.”
  • “I have got to make him appreciate my position.”
  • “I have never lost a client yet.”


  • Lack of self-control.
  • Need to dominate.
  • Inability to stay quiet.
  • A compulsion to explain.
  • Competitiveness (competitive people are relatively simple to manipulate).


95% of people spend 95% of their lives alone in their own heads. Negotiation is getting inside the other person’s head.


  • “I really must get this deal.”
  • “I must make him understand my position.”
  • “It’s my negotiation agenda that’s relevant”
  • “How can I possibly comprehend what he thinks?”


  • Lack of any regard of the counterpart’s needs, priorities, urgencies, and weaknesses.
  • Not posing questions.
  • Starting the bidding with our lowest position in mind, not theirs.
  • Not showing sensitivity.
  • Guessing that the other side views the negotiation just as we do.


So much in negotiation is about feeding ego rather than obtaining the best possible deal, which usually necessitates leaving ego at the door. The other person’s ego can be our biggest opportunity or our greatest threat.


  • “These guys have to see who’s in charge.”
  • “I’d rather lose this deal than be viewed as weak.”
  • “This’ll get me some notice in the board room.”


  • Controlling the first word.
  • Must have the last word.
  • Mistake speaking for dominating.
  • Biased.
  • Belligerent.
  • Lacks ability to listen.
  • Fails to be sensitive.
  • Seeking to humiliate the other side.
  • Prone to flattery.
  • Fixated on winning the symbols of victory.
  • Gives away money as a symbol of importance.
  • Unable to be in a subordinate role in team negotiations.


We lionize the small number of successful, risking-taking masters of the business universe. We forget that 90% of those in business are people who can manage while keeping their heads down to protect their jobs, pay the home loan, and secure their pensions.


  • “It’s best not rock the boat.”
  • “Too many demands will cause them to be angry.”
  • “There are rules which preside over just how much we can ask.”
  • “They possess the upper hand.”
  • “I make sure that I can justify my demands.”
  • “Let’s not jeopardize the relationship.”
  • “My boss will kill me if I foul up this deal.”


  • Are inhibited by fears.
  • Lack of ability to face their fears.
  • Inability to defend against social conditioning.
  • Submissive to (often bogus) authority.
  • Require Self-justification.
  • Lack ambitious demands.
  • Tend to be Defensive.
  • Need to be liked.
  • Tend to be timid.
  • Can be afraid.
  • Moves with the flow.
  • Presents concessions in return for nothing.
  • No ability to lead in team negotiations.”


Attitude matters. Attitudes need to be identified beforehand and you need to find ways to cope with them. The author suggests that only when you recognize your attitude can that help you to achieving your desired outcome with the other party. It is not about me. It is about what we can achieve together. However, it begins with me and the attitude I bring to the negotiation. Check you and your team out first. Plan out how you proceed and then begin the process.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]