Negotiation Styles – 11 Powerful Types You Must Know About

The negotiation style of your opponent should have a big impact on your strategy. Negotiation situations can often be tense. In these circumstances, most people have a tendency to fall back to their habits of dealing with conflict and negotiation.

If you’re in a negotiation, it’s important to be able to identify the negotiation style of your opponent.

But maybe even more important, you should be aware of your own negotiation style.

This article will discuss:

People are constantly negotiating and smoothing out conflicts throughout their professional and their personal life. With the current trend of organizations becoming less hierarchical, personal conflicts will occur more frequently. Being able to navigate through these situations will have a positive impact on your career and on your negotiation outcome.

Studies have shown that negotiation has a direct impact on your ability to make a good deal. But hey, you already knew that!

In order to categorize the negotiation style of your opponent quickly, we’ll use an effective framework to help you understand anyone’s negotiation style.

How to identify your own negotiation style?

Let’s start with an example and identify your own negotiation style. Think of a situation where you had to negotiate. Now answer these 2 questions:

  1. Is it important to satisfy your own needs?
  2. Is it important to satisfy the needs of your opponent?

As you’ll see, the answers to these questions will bring you to one of these 5 main negotiation styles.

Remember, none of these styles is right or wrong. It all depends on the situation you’re in. Sometimes the competing style is best, while sometimes you have to accommodate the other party.

What is the best negotiation style?

Fair enough. Although the best negotiation style heavily depends on your situation, most successful negotiators start off with a collaborative negotiation style. However, this won’t always be the case. Read the entire article to get a better understanding of when to pick a specific negotiation style.

Editor's note:

The Negotiation Game Changer Certificate Program teaches you:

  • the skills needed to drive better, fact-based decisions that ultimately benefit both organizations and its employees.
  • a comprehensive analytics skill set that will enable you to achieve deals with results you have been dreaming of.

The 5 main negotiation styles

First, we’ll dive into the 5 main negotiation styles. Then we’ll continue with 6 more styles based on geographical location. Let’s start!

 

1. Competitive negotiation style / disagreeable negotiation style / distributive negotiation style

The competitive style is probably the easiest one to detect. You’re out to win at all costs. It’s often described as a win-lose approach. Playing hardball.

In this approach, one party is looking to get everything they want without giving anything in return that meets the needs of the other party.

The competitive negotiation style is frequently described as the disagreeable negotiator. Dealing with a disagreeable negotiator opponent is considered tough and should be avoided if possible. If possible, look for alternative solutions to avoid a disagreeable negotiation.

Use this style if:

  • You need to act fast
  • You are 100% sure you’re right about the situation
  • You are dealing with an opponent who will abuse you if you show non-competitive behavior
  • The situation is important and an unpopular decision needs to be taken
  • Other negotiation styles are not possible

Potential downsides of the competitive negotiation style:

  • Fear of admitting ignorance of uncertainty
  • Reduced communication and no opportunity to explore alternative solutions
  • You’ll be surrounded by a ‘yes’ team. Because it’s tough to disagree with a competitive negotiator in your team
  • You might damage the relationship with your opponent
  • You’ll receive little commitment from your opponent which adds risks to the implementation phase of your deal

Click here to learn more about the distributive negotiation style.

2. Accommodation negotiation style

Accommodation as a negotiation style is the opposite of the first one. It’s frequently described as a win-lose approach. Others might call it a soft negotiation style.

An accommodation style is an interesting option when the content of the negotiation isn’t that important to you – but it is to the other party. You’ll be able to build credits at little cost, which could help you in future negotiations. This is the key in the accommodation negotiation style.

Use this style if:

  • You find out you are in the wrong
  • You want to seem like a reasonable person
  • You’re afraid a competitive negotiation style will harm the relationship too much
  • You want to preserve the relationship with your opponent
  • You want to minimize losses

Potential downsides of the accommodation negotiation style:

  • You’ll end up frustrated as your own needs aren’t met
  • Your self-esteem will be undermined

Click here to learn more about the accommodation negotiation style.

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3. Avoidance negotiation style

The avoiding negotiation style comes down to completely ignoring the entire negotiation.

Use this style if:

  • The issue isn’t important to you
  • You’re unable to get what you want anyway
  • You need time to cool down and regain perspective on the situation
  • You need more time to gather information on the situation
  • A team member is able to handle the negotiation better than you
  • The issue is just a small symptom of a bigger, more important issue

Potential downsides of the avoiding negotiation style:

  • Decisions will be made on autopilot
  • Your personal reputation could be damaged
  • You’re unable to give creative input to improve the situation

Click here to learn more about the avoidance negotiation style.

4. Compromising negotiation style

The compromising negotiation style happens when both parties meet in the middle. Both you and your opponent don’t really get what you want. But none is ‘losing’ either. It’s a classic ‘let’s split the difference’.

Use this style if:

  • The issue isn’t with it to be negotiated to the fullest
  • A temporary agreement is needed to settle a complex situation
  • An expedient solution is needed because you’re running out of time

Potential downside of the compromising negotiation style:

  • No one will be fully satisfied with the outcome. This could live to a short-term agreement which could cost both parties lots of time.

Click here to learn more about the compromising negotiation style.

5. Collaboration negotiation style / integrative negotiation style

The collaboration negotiation style, or integrative style is characterized by the intention of a win-win for both parties.

Use this style if:

  • You want a long-lasting solution with your opponent
  • The interests of both parties are too important to be compromised
  • You want to develop and maintain a relationship with your opponent

Potential downside of the collaboration negotiation style:

  • It’s very time consuming to come to an agreement
  • You’ll end up spending time on insignificant issues
  • Your trust in your opponent could lead to the other party taking advantage of you

Click here to learn more about the integrative negotiation style.

Although everybody should fit within the 5 main negotiation styles, there are definitely other factors that influence negotiations. One of the most important of them is culture.  Breakdowns in negotiations when parties are from different cultures are invariably attributed to cultural differences. Though some of these breakdowns may not fairly be attributable to culture, others undoubtedly have cultural origins. 

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Eastern negotiation styles

Negotiators in Eastern cultures are more likely to think about negotiation in terms of relationships and that this frame should influence their negotiation goals. People from Eastern cultures tend to have interdependent, also called collectivist, self-construals . This concept can be defined as the way in which men identify themselves, the mutual relationships that someone has and the way in which men see themselves in relation to others. They tend to understand themselves within the context of the social groups to which they belong and view themselves as agents constrained by social obligations to maintain harmony and preserve “face” within their social groups.  

In general, the Japanese and the Chinese like to negotiate in large teams and are looking for consensus decision making. When you negotiate with such a team, it may not be apparent who the leader is and who has the authority to commit the side. The consensus type of organization usually takes more time to negotiate a deal. Japanese negotiators are less likely to make commands and threats, which might indicate a concern with relationship management, than negotiators from several other Western cultures.

6. Chinese negotiation style

While most Chinese businesspeople and officials have only limited exposure to other cultures, some are very savvy in doing international business and may appear quite westernized. Nevertheless, realize that people may expect things to be done ‘their way’ and let them set the pace initially until you have had a chance to determine how your interaction can be most effective. Owing to China’s long periods of isolation and a history of foreign intrusions, there used to be a general bias against foreigners. This is gradually disappearing in the country’s business centers. However, it is crucial to show respect for the country’s history and importance.

While there is no problem with calling China a developing country, do not refer to it as a third-world country. After all, China’s importance as a powerful nation reaches back some 5,000 years. It was the cradle for countless groundbreaking inventions and has dominated the world as its economic center over the course of several centuries.

Business meals and entertainment, in particular banquets and other evening events, are very important as they help advance the vital process of building strong relationships. Refusing to participate in such activities is a signal that you are not seriously interested in doing business with your counterparts. Although business is commonly not discussed during these events, there can be exceptions.

In China, the primary approach to negotiating is to employ distributive and contingency bargaining. While the buyer is in a superior position, both sides in a business deal own the responsibility to reach an agreement. They expect long-term commitments from their business partners and will focus mostly on long-term benefits. Although the primary negotiation style is competitive the Chinese nevertheless value long-term relationships. Chinese negotiators may at times appear highly competitive or outright adversarial, fiercely bargaining for seemingly small gains. However, even when negotiating in a fairly direct and aggressive fashion, they ultimately maintain a long-term perspective and remain willing to compromise for the sake of the relationship.

Do not confuse the sometimes-aggressive style with bad intentions. Keeping relationships intact throughout your negotiation is vital. It is best to remain calm, friendly, patient, and persistent, never taking anything personally. It will also be very important to maintain continuity in the objectives you pursue, the messages you deliver, and the people you include in the negotiation. Expect negotiations to be slow and protracted. Relationship building, information gathering, bargaining, and decision making may all take considerable time. Furthermore, negotiators often attempt to wear you down in an effort to obtain concessions.

7. Japanese negotiation style

Many Japanese business people are experienced in interacting with other cultures. However, this does not mean that they are open-minded. When negotiating business here, people expect that you understand and follow the Japanese way of doing things. After all, this country, with its history as an isolated ‘Island Nation,’ is culturally very homogeneous and commonality of customs is considered highly desirable.

To the Japanese, negotiating is usually a joint problem-solving process. The buyer clearly has a dominant role and the seller carries a stronger burden to support that buyer than in most other societies. Vendors are expected to do whatever it takes to satisfy their customer’s needs, and salespeople may receive harsh treatment from unhappy clients. In extreme cases, Japanese customers may demand to receive details of their vendors’ cost structure and expect to receive prices at some margin above that. At the same time, both sides are expected to ‘take care of each other.’ The buyer will therefore ensure that the seller makes a profit in the deal, though what they may consider acceptable is often lower than in many other countries. Ultimately, both sides are partners in a mutual dependency that is bound by their relationship. Both are expected to make a long-term commitment to their business engagement and will mostly focus on its long-term benefits. Sellers may be expected to accept short-term losses for longer-term gains. A Japanese buyer is interested in what the vendor will do to reduce costs in the future, expecting that most of the savings are passed on so that both buyer and seller can enjoy more business through reducing the cost of their product or service. The primary negotiation style is cooperative and people may be open to compromise if viewed as helpful in order to move the negotiation forward. It is important to be flexible and creative to get a deal that both sides are pleased to have.

Should a dispute arise at any stage of a negotiation, resolving it may require the help of an external mediator, ideally the party who initially introduced you.

Expect negotiations to be slow and protracted, with immense attention paid to details throughout all stages. Relationship building, information gathering, bargaining, and decision-making all take considerable time. The Japanese negotiation style is very formal and tolerates only a restricted set of negotiation tactics.

8. Indian negotiation style

In India, the primary approach to negotiating is to employ distributive and contingency bargaining. While the buyer is in a superior position, both sides in a business deal own the responsibility to reach an agreement. They expect long-term commitments from their business partners and will focus mostly on long-term benefits. Although the primary negotiation style is somewhat competitive, Indians nevertheless value long-term relationships and look for win-win solutions. They may occasionally appear to be pursuing a win-lose approach, in which case it pays to help them focus on mutual benefit.

However, avoid being confrontational! Expect negotiations to be slow and protracted. Delays are often inevitable, particularly when dealing with government bureaucracy. Be prepared to make several trips if necessary to achieve your objectives. Throughout the negotiation, be patient, control your emotions, and accept that delays occur. Indians view impatience or pushiness as rude!

Editor's note:

The Negotiation Game Changer Certificate Program teaches you:

  • the skills needed to drive better, fact-based decisions that ultimately benefit both organizations and its employees.
  • a comprehensive analytics skill set that will enable you to achieve deals with results you have been dreaming of.

9. Russian negotiation style

Previously the leading state of the USSR, Russia became a separate country in 1991. Most business people and officials in the country have little experience with other cultures except for its neighbouring countries.

There is still a widespread lack of free-market knowledge. It may be necessary to discuss and seek agreement over the definition of concepts such as fair play, goodwill, profit and loss, turnover, individual accountability, proprietary rights, and so forth. Even when you do, people’s expectation may frequently be that things are done their way.’Most Russians are very proud of their country. It would be a serious mistake to belittle its accomplishments or to refer to it as a ‘loser’ of the Cold War.

In Russia, the primary approach to negotiating is to employ distributive and contingency bargaining. The buyer is often in a strongly favourable position and may try to push the responsibility to reach an agreement with the seller. Given the country’s relatively unstable political and economic situation, negotiators may focus mostly on the near-term benefits of the business deal.

The primary negotiation style in the country is very competitive and people may become outright adversarial. Most Russians view negotiating a zero-sum game in which one side’s gain equals the other side’s loss. Negotiations may become more personable and at least a little more cooperative if strong relationships have been established between the parties.

While quite a few Russians are highly skilled negotiators, the majority of business people in the country have only limited experience in the field. They may expect to do some bargaining and occasionally haggle a lot, but this is rare. None of this makes them easy prey, though. Russians can be extremely patient, persistent, and stubborn negotiators. It can be very difficult to obtain concessions from them.

They often view compromise as a sign of weakness and may frequently refuse to change their position unless the other side offers sufficient concessions or shows exceptional firmness. Similarly, they may make minor concessions while asking for major ones in return. Negotiating with Russians inevitably includes much posturing and manoeuvring. The best approach is to be polite but remain tough throughout the bargaining process.

Conservative attire is important when doing business here. Male business visitors should wear suits on most occasions. While you do not want to appear overdressed, make sure your shoes and your suit are in good condition.

Western negotiation styles

People from Western cultures tend to have independent, also called individualistically, Self-construals. This concept can be defined as the way in which men identify themselves, the mutual relationships that someone has, and the way in which men see themselves in relation to others. They understand themselves as independent or detached from the social groups to which they belong and view themselves as agents free to focus on personal goals to self-actualize rather than on social obligations (Marcus and Kitayama, 1991; Ting-Toomey, 1985).

For example, it has been proven that  U.S. negotiators make more extreme offers, indicating they were focused on claiming, and more self-enhancing statements, indicating a focus on the self, whereas collectivist Greek negotiators focus more on both parties. Many American teams tend to follow the approach of a negotiating team with a supreme leader who has complete authority to decide all matters.

10. American negotiation style

There is probably a greater diversity of business cultures and styles in the United States than in any other country in the world. This makes preparing for specific business interactions difficult. Because of the wide spectrum of heterogeneous cultural influences, however, Americans are usually tolerant of unconventional negotiation styles and habits as long as they do not conflict with their own values.

On the other hand, many share a strong belief that the country’s culture and value system are superior to all others, which members of other cultures sometimes interpret as arrogant. People in the country may be convinced that the American way is the only morally acceptable one, insisting that everyone play by a common set of ‘ground rules.’ While we strive to explain critical beliefs throughout this section, business practices may deviate from the general guidelines provided in the following. Always expect the unexpected when doing business in this country.

The primary negotiation style is competitive, sometimes intensely so. Although people will look for win-win solutions, they may strive to ‘win more’ than the other side does. Power factors such as company size and financial strength play a major role and may frequently be emphasized. When negotiating, Americans may appear fiercely competitive or even combative. However, they will ultimately be interested in finding a solution that both sides can accept. It is best to remain calm, firm, and persistent. At the same time, show a positive and constructive attitude without taking things personally.

Negotiations in the U.S. may take less time than anywhere else in the world. ‘Speed matters’ and ‘time is money’ are beliefs most members of this culture share, and doing is usually valued much more highly than planning and analyzing. Accordingly, your counterparts will generally want to finish the negotiation in a timely manner and implement actions soon. Even complex negotiations may not require more than one trip, as follow-up negotiations are often conducted via phone and e-mail. While most Americans are comfortable with bargaining, few of them like to haggle.

They can be ambitious, tough, and aggressive negotiators, though, often going for the biggest possible slice of the business. Appearing confident and assertive is essential, since facing an apparently insecure counterpart may encourage Americans to negotiate harder. State your position clearly and be willing to push for it as needed. It can be advantageous to emphasize the uniqueness of what you have to offer. Negotiators in the U.S. often take firm positions at the beginning of the bargaining process. Neat and clean attire is important when doing business here. However, dress codes can be somewhat more casual than elsewhere, especially on the West Coast. Business lunches are more common than business dinners. Americans often discuss business during meals. Social events do not require strict punctuality. While it is best to arrive at dinners close to the agreed time, being late to a party by 15 to 30 minutes is perfectly acceptable. Smoking is prohibited in most offices, also in and around many public places.

11. French negotiation style

It is very important to show respect for the country’s history and importance. The French attitude can sometimes appear arrogant or egoistical to foreigners. However, any sign of disrespect or a refusal to endorse it as a great and important nation can have a substantial impact on your business relationship. In France, the primary approach to negotiating is to engage in a debate aimed at reaching a mutually agreeable solution. While the buyer is in a superior position, both sides in a business deal own the responsibility to reach an agreement. They may focus equally on near-term and long-term benefits.

The primary negotiation style is cooperative, but people may be unwilling to agree with compromises unless it is their only option to keep the negotiation from getting stuck. In addition, negotiators in this country may be very passionate and can appear outright aggressive. The French may not always show a win-win attitude, especially if they believe that ‘logical’ reasons support their position. While the exchange of facts and arguments may get heated, it is vital to avoid any open confrontation and to remain calm, composed, patient, and persistent.

Expect negotiations to be slow. While the French may not always spend a lot of time in preparing for the negotiation, bargaining and decision making can take a long time. Aspects of your proposals may be analyzed and scrutinized repeatedly. Remain patient, control your emotions, and accept the inevitable delays.

Most of the French are not fond of bargaining and strongly dislike haggling. The bargaining stage of negotiation can take substantial time, though, with significant time spent discussing proposals and debating the merits of specific terms and conditions. Prices rarely move by more than 25 to 30 percent between initial offers and the final agreement.

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