Is your negotiation style helping or hindering? - Michelle Gibbings








Negotiating is a part of life. Some people love it, while others tolerate it or loathe it.

Over the years I’ve found most people operate with one of four key styles: avoider, impulsive, peace-maker or fighter:

  • Avoider – this is the person who avoids or delays negotiating to their detriment and are likely to give up too easily when the conversation gets hard. Worrying about what people think of them, they don’t back themselves. As well, because they don’t like confrontation and difficult conversations, they would prefer for other people to negotiate on their behalf. There are occasions where that can be a good strategy.
  • Impulsive – thinking with their heart, this person lets emotions run the agenda because they find it hard to stay calm and rational when conversations become challenging. Once they’ve engaged, they find it very hard to disengage. They can say things they regret.
  • Peace maker – taking the path of least resistance, this person is willing to accept the views and ideas of others purely because they want to reach the easiest, least confrontational or fastest decision. They will sacrifice their needs because they want everyone to be happy.
  • Fighter (cue the Rocky music) – this is the person who prefers to take the win at all costs approach. They are quick on their feet and can, on occasions, come across as angry or a bully. But if you want someone to negotiate on your behalf, they can be a good person to have in your corner because they don’t walk away from tough conversations. They know how and when to hold ground.

To effectively negotiate we actually need a sprinkling of all of these styles.

There are times to engage and negotiate, and times to walk away. There are times to stand your ground and times to find common ground. There are times to think with your head, and times to think with your heart. There’s time for facts and data, and time for emotions.

Take a moment and ponder – what’s your dominant style? How does that help or hinder the progress you make?

One thing that runs across all styles is the need to think long term by focusing on managing and maintaining relationships.

Very occasionally there may be someone you are willing to burn – but most of the time it’s not a good strategy. Ruining a relationship to get exactly what you want – can bite you in the long run.

Remember, it’s a much smaller world than we think.

Ideally at the end of a negotiation you want the other party walking away feeling valued and that they have secured something too. If they don’t, they’ll be much harder to deal with next time. And trust me – they’ll be a next time.

To help them walking away feeling satisfied, think about how you can expand the pie through collaboration. Rather than you trying to get the biggest slice of the pie (or worse, the whole pie).

This is about involving them in developing the solution that meets both your needs. Use questions and curiosity to help dig into what’s possible. For example:

  • Get them to explore alternatives by asking ‘What if we did…?’ You want to get them thinking about the options that are in play
  • You also want them to think about what they will do in return for what you are agreeing to do. So if they make an offer, ask them to consider ‘So if I do X, what will you do?”

Negotiations are never a smooth straight line, and yet they are a constant in life.

The American sports agent, Leigh Steinberg, once remarked “The only thing certain about any negotiation is that it will lead to another negotiation”.

Very true!

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’.

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