Top 5 – What’s Your Negotiating Style?

March 26, 2012

From the time we wake till the time we sleep our lives are filled with negotiations. We (sometimes) silently negotiate our way through the morning traffic. We negotiate with the boss to take a week off, we negotiate with our teams to work back to meet a looming deadline, we negotiate with our customers to push out a delivery date. When we get home we negotiate with the dog to let us in the front door. We negotiate with our partners for ‘me time’ on the weekend and we negotiate how many books we will read with our toddlers before bed.

Negotiating is essentially a process to get us to where or what we want. The process can be quick – it might take seconds or the negotiation could take months or more.

Some negotiations are relatively small and the consequences not so great but for some negotiations, the outcomes are life altering and you need to be effective in your negotiating style as the consequences of getting it wrong can be severe.

To effectively negotiate it is important to recognise the different styles of negotiating, there is no real right way to negotiate it can be argued that each has its place but be warned some of these styles are more combative than others and some can pull at the threads of already frayed relationships.

Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann devised an assessment instrument for evaluating an individual’s behaviour in conflict situations. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Thomas and Kilmann describe five distinctive personalities for handling conflict situations/negotiations.

The top 5 Negotiating Styles of Thomas and Kilmann.

1. Competing (I win – You lose)
This style of negotiation is best described as competitive and is one of the most used styles in negotiating. Negotiators using this style are looking out for their own needs, asking themselves ‘what do I need to get from this discussion / process?’. They use a variety of tactics to get what they want and their concern for the relationship is low.

This style is most effective when results are needed quickly, or you are certain there is no room for negotiation. Good examples of this style are buying a new car or a lawyer representing their client or commodity based selling.

2. Accommodating (I Lose – You Win)
This style of negotiation is all about the relationship and is the polar opposite of the Competing style. Accommodating negotiators believe that the only way to ultimately get what they want is to give everything to the other party and maybe in time they will do the same or stay. This style, is naturally, well liked by the opposite party.

Examples of this style are when a person knowingly injures another person and willingly offers to pay all medical expenses hoping the injured party does not sue.

3. Compromising (I Lose / Win Some – You Lose/ Win Some)
The old adage ‘pick your battles’ applies here. This style values the relationship and acknowledges that there is a loss but it is better to compromise then completely lose. A compromising style results in both parties getting more or less half of what they originally wanted. This style is common when the negotiating parties have a high level of trust between each other and are time poor. This style should not be confused with Collaborating (I win – You win).

4. Collaborating (I Win – You Win)
Collaborative negotiators are innovators! They recognise that both parties have needs that must be met and take the time to find creative solutions to this common conundrum. In business, this style of negotiating is often seen as the “Holy Grail”.

Most business to business negotiators plan for this type of negotiation. Some organisations are well known for their collaborative style of negotiating where some others are known for being mercenaries in their approach.

It needs to be recognised that this style of negotiating is somewhat wonderful ideological because in reality it is high on resources and time.

An example of this style is Honda Motor Company which is known for being completely focused on a collaborative approach to working with their suppliers resulting in greater commitment and cooperation and well built cars!

5. Avoiding (I Lose – You Lose)
This style can be more difficult to spot as it can go under cover for a time; it is a ‘passive aggressive style’. The user of this style is unassertive and uncooperative. They do not immediately pursue their own concerns or the other parties nor do they ever address the conflict. This style is usually a vengeful style and whilst the adopters of this style won’t address the conflict they will seek ways of retribution. This style is usually in response to a highly competitive style. The avoider will shut down communication and contact and will seemingly disappear off the radar. While this is in play, mutual resentment builds and cracks to total breakdown of the relationship may occur.

An example of this style is two co-workers who cannot agree on the delivery of a project and avoid communicating with each other but happily talk to other co-workers about it!

Managing negotiations takes skill and training. For more information on styles click on the topic ‘Negotiation Skills’ which includes templates, models, do’s and don’t’s and more.

Negotiation Skills

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