Let’s all face it: for better or for worse the next time that we enter into a negotiation, we’re going to be bringing our personality along with us. We may not spend a lot of time thinking about this, I mean it’s just who we are. However, there is a fundamental question that we really should be spending some time considering. Is our personality helping or hindering our negotiating efforts? Do we know how to evaluate what type of personality we have? Can we tell what types of personalities the other negotiators have? Does any of this really matter?
Does Your Personality Help Or Hinder You In A Negotiation?
Negotiators tend to have strong intuitions about which personality traits help or hurt us in negotiation, but does research on the topic confirm our hunches? We want to know if personality in negotiation really matters. When studying personality in negotiation, the psychologists generally focus on three main negotiator factors that are believed to encompass most human personality traits. These factors are extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Each of the factors can be viewed as a spectrum on which individuals fall – for example, from highly introverted to highly extroverted.
Negotiation researchers have generally focused more on identifying commonalities among negotiators, such as our shared susceptibility to the anchoring effect, than on examining our individual differences. However, some findings have started to emerge on the topic. Here are what the finding are showing.
In a negotiation extroversion refers to an individual’s degree of sociability, assertiveness, talkativeness, and optimism. Negotiators who score high on extroversion tend to form ideas and opinions by interacting with others. They thrive in group settings and can be highly responsive to others’ emotions. At the other end of the extroversion spectrum, negotiators who are introverts tend to be quieter and to prefer working and thinking alone. Although shyness is more common among introverts than extroverts, it is possible for introverts to be confident and skilled at public speaking.
Given these descriptions, it is easy to assume that the best negotiators are extroverts. Optimism, assertiveness, and a lively, friendly personality are all traits that we know can be powerful assets in negotiation, enabling dealmakers to build bridges, draw out others’ interests, and advocate persuasively on their own behalf. However, studies have shown that extroverts achieved less than introverts in a distributive-negotiation simulation in which individuals haggled over the single issue of price. Extroverts appeared to be more influenced than introverts were by the other side’s first offer, a deficit that they only partially compensated for later in the negotiation. Introverts and extroverts performed similarly in an integrative, multi-issue negotiation simulation where participants were able to both collaborate and compete. Thus, based on this study, the answer to question 1 is “False”: There seems to be no evidence that extroverts are able to outperform introverts in a negotiation.
In a negotiation, agreeableness is a personality factor that encompasses courteousness, flexibility, sympathy, trust, cooperation, and tolerance. Many of these traits would appear to be assets in any negotiation, particularly flexibility and cooperation. Is it possible that agreeableness can turn into a liability if concern for others prevents one from advocating assertively for oneself? Studies have found that agreeableness predicts slightly lower outcomes in distributive negotiations, perhaps due to agreeable people’s social concerns. Agreeableness has shown no effect on outcomes in integrative negotiations where parties can work together to create value. Thus, the answer to question 2 appears to be “False,” based on current knowledge.
When it comes to negotiators, as a measure of self-discipline, organization, carefulness, responsibility, and achievement motivation, conscientiousness might seem to be the top personality in negotiation traits most closely linked to high negotiation performance. After all, we are always being told that there is no better way to improve our outcomes than to thoroughly prepare for a negotiation. However, studies failed to find a link between conscientiousness and negotiation performance. However, that may have been because highly conscientious participants in the study had no greater opportunity to prepare to negotiate than the less conscientious. Lacking a definitive answer to question 3, it seems at least plausible that it may be “True.”
What All Of This Means For You
Every time that we enter into a negotiation, we bring our personality along. What a negotiator need to realize is that their personality may either help or hinder them in a negotiation. Because of this, we need to become more aware of what our negotiating personality is and how it may be affecting our negotiating. We also need to determine if we can use our personality to get better deals.
There are three main personality factors that can have an influence on how we go about negotiating. The first is extroversion and its partner introversion. How outgoing we are does not seem to have an effect on our ability to negotiate. Agreeableness is a positive personality trait. Studies have shown that being an agreeable person will not hinder us in a negotiation. Conscientiousness is also a desirable trait. This is one trait that may end up holding us back in a negotiation.
Awareness of our own personality is something that we all need to develop. If we are aware of our personality and how it may be affecting the negotiation that we are involved in then we can make better decisions. No, I don’t think that we can change our personality, but we can find ways to use it to get better deals.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that studying the other side’s personality can help us to get better deals?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Not all negotiations end the way that we want them to. There is the very real possibility that during a negotiation we can encounter an impasse. Both sides may come to believe that they are going to be able to reach a deal by themselves and that perhaps they will need to go to court in order to get the other side to do what they want them to do. This is always a possibility. However, savvy negotiators understand that if they can settle out of court then they may be able to reach a better deal with the other side that the court would hand to them.