What Role Will Personality Play In Your Next Negotiation?

Our personality and the other personalities can impact our outcome
Our personality and the other personalities can impact our outcome
Image Credit: photo516

One thing that both we and the other side will be bringing to our next negotiation will be our personalities. Where things can get interesting is that the various personalities that are involved in a negotiation can have a big impact on your chances to reach a deal with the other side. As a negotiator you need to understand what the different personality types are and how you can work with them.

The Five Factors Of Personality

When they are studying the role that personality plays in a negotiation, psychologists generally focus on the five main factors that are believed to encompass most human personality traits: agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Each factor can be viewed as a spectrum on which individuals fall—for example, from highly introverted to highly extroverted. Negotiation researchers generally have focused more on identifying commonalities among negotiators, such as our shared susceptibility to the anchoring effect, rather than on examining our individual differences. However, some findings have started to emerge on the topic. Here’ what we know about how the Big 5 personality traits play out in negotiation.


For a negotiator agreeableness is a personality factor that encompasses courteousness, sympathy, flexibility, trust, cooperation, and tolerance. Many of these traits would appear to be assets in negotiation, particularly flexibility and cooperation. But could agreeableness turn into a negotiating liability if concern for others prevents one from advocating assertively for oneself?

Most negotiation studies have found that agreeableness predicts slightly lower outcomes in distributive negotiations, perhaps due to agreeable people’s social concerns. However, agreeableness has shown no effect on outcomes in integrative negotiations where parties can work together to create value.


In a negotiation, extroversion refers to a negotiator’s degree of sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and optimism. People who score high on extroversion tend to form their ideas and opinions by interacting with others. They thrive in group settings and are highly responsive to other people’s emotions. At the other end of the extroversion spectrum, introverts tend to be quieter and to prefer working and thinking alone. Although shyness is more common among introverts than extroverts, introverts can be both confident and skilled at public speaking.

With these understandings, we might assume that the best negotiators are extroverts. Optimism, assertiveness, and a lively, friendly personality are all traits that we know from experience can be powerful assets in negotiation, enabling dealmakers to build bridges, draw out others’ interests, and advocate persuasively on their own behalf. However, it has been found 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 their opponent’s first offer, a deficit that they only partially compensated for later in the negotiation. There seems to be no evidence that extroverts outperform introverts in negotiation.


As a measure of self-discipline, organization, responsibility, carefulness, and achievement motivation, conscientiousness might seem to be the Big 5 personality in negotiation trait most closely linked to high negotiation performance. After all, experts consistently tell us that there is no better way to improve your outcomes than to thoroughly prepare for a negotiation. Studies have failed to find a link between conscientiousness and negotiation performance, but that may have been because highly conscientious participants in the study had no greater opportunity to prepare to negotiate than the less conscientious. Although some people are naturally more conscientious than others, the good news is that virtually all of us have the potential to behave more conscientiously in negotiation simply by taking more time to prepare and working on our organizational skills.


This sinister-sounding trait neuroticism describes an individual’s general level of anxiety, worry, depression, and insecurity. Those scoring high on neuroticism studies view the negotiation experience more negatively than others do after the fact. Somewhat relatedly, negotiators who have strong concerns about maintaining their social image, or sense of “face,” ended up creating less joint value and reached more impasses in negotiations that threatened their sense of self.


Not to be confused with a willingness to share one’s thoughts and feelings, openness as a Big 5 personality trait describes people’s broad-mindedness, imaginativeness, and divergent thinking (generating creative solutions by exploring a range of ideas). People who score high on openness are considered intellectually curious and willing to consider novel ideas.

Not surprisingly, negotiators who score high on openness contributed to greater mutual gain in an integrative negotiation, though they did not perform better in a “pie-dividing” negotiation. These imaginative negotiators may be particularly adept at identifying opportunities for value-creating tradeoffs.

What All Of This Means For You

If there is one thing that I think that almost all negotiators can agree on, it is that the personality that we bring to a negotiation can play a big role in the type of deal that we are able to reach with the other side. What we need to understand is that a personality is not just one thing, instead it is really made up of five different parts: agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness

In a negotiation, the personality trait of agreeableness provides courteousness and sympathy. This trait can both work for us and against us in a negotiation. Extroversion refers to a negotiator’s degree of sociability. Extroverts do make good negotiators, but introverts can also do a good job. Conscientiousness which provides self-discipline and organization has not been found to help in a negotiation. Neuroticism which describes an individual’s general level of anxiety and worry does not help in a negotiation. However, openness and being broad minded does.

Negotiators are always looking for a way to gain an advantage in their next negotiation. Understanding that we all bring our personalities to the negotiating table is an important first step. We then need to understand that each of our personalities is actually made up of different components that can impact how successful we will be in our negotiation. Understand the power of the personality and put it to good use in your next negotiation.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Which of the 5 personality characteristics do you think will be the most important in your next negotiation?

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