Understanding and Using Different Negotiation Styles

Reading this article entitled “Understanding Different Negotiating Styles” by Katie Shonk from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation blog, it struck me that I wanted to share with you another way to look at negotiating styles other than the way these were explained.   She categorizes negotiating styles as individualistic, cooperators, competitives, and altruists and she offers some interesting statistics.  She has some very good insights and I recommend her article, however, I want to present some information for you from a different perspective.

In my latest book “Peaceful Resolutions” in chapter 7 on The Art of Negotiation I offer in part this commentary and the chart below.

Types of Negotiators: Soft, Hard, and Principled

Conflict negotiation is a growth industry because everyone wants to participate in decisions that affect them and no one likes having an autocrat imposing decisions on them. Even in litigation nearly all cases are settled through negotiation prior to trial. Three basic kinds of negotiators have been identified by researchers involved in The Harvard Negotiation Project. These types of negotiators are called soft bargainers, hard bargainers, and principled bargainers.

(The following description is adapted from “Types of Negotiators” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negotiation.)

Soft. These negotiators prefer a gentle style of bargaining. Their offers are not always in their best interest, they yield quickly to others’ demands, they avoid confrontation, and maintain good relations with other negotiators. Their preferred relationship to others is one of friendship, and their goal in negotiations is agreement. They do not separate people from problems, and are soft on both. They do not like conflict or competition and avoid contests of wills. They will insist on agreement, offering solutions that cost them, and trust others to do the right thing.

Hard. These people use manipulative strategies to influence, utilizing phrases such as “this is my final offer” and “take it or leave it.” Hard negotiators make threats, are distrustful of others, insist on their position, and apply pressure to conclude negotiations. They see others as opponents and adversaries and their ultimate goal is victory. They will search for one single answer, and will insist agreement on it. Like soft bargainers, hard bargainers do not separate the people from the problem, but they are hard on both the people they deal with and the problem.

Principled. Individuals who bargain in the “principled” style seek integrative solutions, and they do so by sidestepping commitment to specific, entrenched positions. Principled bargainers focus on the problem rather than the intentions or motives of people. They explore interests of people involved, avoid bottom lines, and reach results based on criteria and standards which are independent of arbitrary personal will. These objective criteria are the key to principled bargaining, and not power, prestige, pressure, self-interest, or arbitrary procedures. These criteria may be drawn from moral standards, principles of fair play, professional standards, and other objective sources.

The text goes into more detail regarding the challenges of each type of negotiator and how to work with each.  Following that discussion the text offers a table of ideas to help you, but unfortunately this blog site cannot accept that table.  I go on to say...

“Begin by asking the other party to tell you their perspective. Tell them what you heard them say even better (more crisply, more concisely) than how they stated it. Demonstrate by this process that you are both actively listening with empathy. Look for opportunities to change their perspective so that you appear different from what they might have expected from you. For example, if the other party is expecting you to reply negatively to what the other party just stated, instead respond by saying that a certain part of what you just stated makes sense. Doing so can help break the ice. Involve the other party in the process. Be conscious of allowing the other side to save face consistent with their core values. Pay extremely careful attention to what is being said. Ask questions. Your goal is to understand the other party’s interests. Summarize key points that were just spoken by the other party. Try to understand and express the key points and the key differences as clearly as you can. If there is a misunderstanding clear it up immediately. Limit the size of the group to the vital few and speak to be understood. Speak about yourself using “I” phrases instead of “you” phrases.

For example:

“I am hurt” rather than “you lied to me”

“I feel discriminated against” rather than “you are a bigot”

I have a passion to learn and a passion to share what I have learned.  I hope you find these insights helpful.