Negotiation Styles and Why They Matter

Later this month I’ll be speaking at HR Florida about Negotiation Skills. We are all negotiators, even if we don’t realize it. Think for a minute. What did you do when your alarm went off this morning? Did you immediately jump out of bed or did you negotiate with yourself to allow yourself just “five more minutes?” Did your kid talk you into letting them pack cookies in their school lunch instead of a granola bar? Or did you agree to allow Jim to take the lead on the new project at work because Ally has too much on her workload as it is?

While I’ll spend most of my session at HR Florida talking about how to navigate the negotiation session itself, there’s one important topic that I’ll tackle first, and that’s negotiation style. Based on the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) there are five styles:

  1. Competing: Those who exhibit the competing style are aggressive and uncooperative. They are power driven and pursue their own interests at the expense of others. Competing may mean standing up for what’s right, defending what they believe is correct, or simply trying to win.
  2. Collaborating: Those who exhibit the collaborating style are both assertive and cooperative. They attempt to work with the other party to find a solution that meets the needs of both parties by trying to understand the issue from both sides and identifying the underlying concerns, then trying to find alternative solutions that meet those the needs of both sides. This may mean exploring a disagreement to learn from each other, resolving some condition that would have them competing for resources, or trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.
  3. Compromising: Those who exhibit the compromising style are intermediate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The goal is to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies the needs of both parties. Compromising falls on the middle ground between competing and accommodating, giving up more than competing but less than accommodating. It might mean splitting the difference or some give and take.
  4. Avoiding: Those who exhibit the avoiding style are unassertive and uncooperative. They do not immediately pursue their own concerns or the concerns of the other person. They do not address the conflict, but instead choose to side step it, postponing the issue until a better time or simply withdrawing from the situation completely.
  5. Accommodating: Those who exhibit the accommodating style are unassertive and cooperative, this is the opposite of competing. They neglect their own concerns and instead choose to only satisfy the concerns of the other person, thus self-sacrificing their own needs.

What’s important to understand about negotiation styles is that while we may have a dominant style, for example my dominant style is compromising, we use all five styles depending on the situation that we’re negotiating and it’s important to understand that the style you use in a negotiation can have a huge impact on the outcome of that negotiation.

For example, think about the following situations and consider what negotiation style you would use and why.

  • Going to buy a new car
  • Asking your boss for a pay raise
  • Trying to negotiate a multi-million dollar contract at work

Now, think about the negotiations that you will need to make in the next week and what styles you will need to use to successfully complete those negotiations.

Lorrie Coffey