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Produced in partnership with Beth Pipe FCIPD of OnLive Learning

When entering into any negotiation, be it a multimillion-pound business deal or agreeing the office coffee rota, there are two main elements to consider: the structure and stages of the negotiation and the human aspect, ie emotions and negotiation style.

In this Lexis®PSL Practice Note we consider the second element:

  • the human element of negotiations
  • understanding your own natural negotiation style
  • responding to the natural style of others
  • dodgy tricks and tactics and how to deal with them

See Lexis®PSL Practice Note: The structure of a negotiation for guidance on the first element.

The human element of negotiations

PatientThey recognise they may not get everything all in one sitting
CreativeAlways looking for different ways to satisfy the requirements of everyone
FlexibleAble to change to conditions in the market and around the negotiating table
Ask lots of questionsKnowledge is power and asking questions can give knowledge
Doesn’t annoy the other sideThey recognise the importance of the long-term relationship
Control emotionsNot giving in to shouting and tantrums to get their way
ConfidentPortraying a confident manner, even if they may not always feel it
Well preparedHave done their research and understand what’s on the table
Play to their strengthsUnderstand their own style and how to use it to maximum effect
AdaptableAble to adapt their personal style to influence others

Understanding your own natural negotiation style

Based on the work of the psychologist Carl Jung, there are four different communication styles: controllers, advocates, analysts and facilitators. The table below sets out the key attributes of each style and should help you to identify your natural or preferred style of negotiating as well as helping you to recognise the natural style of others. When reading through the four different styles there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • you will probably be able to identify with at least one element in all of them
  • it’s likely there will be one or two that you identify with more strongly than the others
  • there is no right or wrong—it is simply about recognising the strengths and weaknesses of your own natural style and understanding how and when to adapt it
  • when faced with any self-assessment activity there is a danger that we simply reinforce our own views of ourselves—for a more accurate idea of how you are perceived, invite feedback from those who have seen you negotiate
  • all of them have positive qualities
  • communication style alone is no indication of whether a person is “nice” or effective in their role
Highly assertive but not emotional communicators.Typified as “I want” as they only want the facts and they want them now, with no waffleTask-centredShort, sharp, to the point emailsIrritated by things that get in the way, whether they are family, friends or colleaguesTypically single-mindedOften well respected but possibly perceived as aloofHighly assertive but more emotional in their style of communicating and the language they use. They are generally interested in the bigger pictureRelate well to others and good listening skills come naturallyKeen to build business relationships rather than just transactSeen as confident and assured by othersTypically use more emotive language rather than sticking to cold, hard factsQuick to make decisions
Less assertive and emotional than other styles and generally want lots of facts before committing to anything.Slow decision makers as they want to analyse the details before they decideUsually have excellent attention to detail and a fondness for reading the small printOften quieter and perceived as lacking confidence (may or may not be true)Think things through before speakingLess assertive but more emotionally engaged with those around them. People who are focused on people.People-centredHigh levels of empathyCooperative approach to problem solvingDislikes confrontation and will try to avoidLess comfortable with strong focus on the business needKeen to ensure everyone is supported

Responding to the natural style of others

Having identified your own natural style your attention should now turn to the natural style of others. Read the table above again and consider how we may jump to conclusions about others based purely on the way they communicate. For example, a facilitator may perceive the short sharp style of the controller to be rude or brusque whereas controllers may see facilitators as being weak and ineffective.

When we are negotiating with others, we can influence them more easily by adopting elements of the communication style with which they are most comfortable. The table below gives you clear and simple guidelines for working with each different communication style:


What they wantWhen negotiating with them
The meeting to be over as soon as possibleA clear focus on factsShort, sharp, to the point conversationsClear indications of business benefitsBe clear, specific, to the point and stick to businessBe prepared with everything requiredPresent facts logically, clearlyAlways address the facts, not the person
What you need to watch out forWhen negotiating with them don’t
Insensitivity to other team member’s needsInability to listenExpectations too high of self and othersTendency to criticise without offering solutionsRamble on, waffle or waste their timeTry to build personal relationshipsBe disorganised or messyTry to convince by appealing to personal issues or incentives


What they wantWhen negotiating with them
Reassurance about risksDetailed feedback about achievements and shortfallsClear timetablesTime to think and answer questionsPrepare and distribute information in advanceTake your time but be persistentList pros and cons of your argumentProvide practical solutions and evidenceMinimise sense of risk
What you need to watch out forWhen negotiating with them don’t
Decisions that have been put offSo much attention to detail that the overall picture may be lostInformation not passed on to the rest of the teamIsolation from the rest of the teamBe too casual or informalLeave things to chanceRush the processUse opinions or unreliable, unknown sourcesPush too hard or give unrealistic deadlines


What they wantWhen negotiating with them
Time to chat and build a relationshipFeedback on how they are doingNew directions and tasksAn emotional engagement or incentiveAllow time for socialisingBe prepared to talk about peoplePut things in writing, with specific actionsQuote or involve people they regard as important
What you need to watch out forWhen negotiating with them don’t
Lack of attention to detailStarting on too many new and exciting tasksMore enthusiasm than judgementA tendency to see a rosy coloured viewBe sharp or coldFocus only on facts and figuresLeave decisions open – get closureBe too task oriented


What they wantWhen negotiating with them
Close attention to personal needsOpportunity to discuss successes and failuresResponsibility for welfare of othersSupportUse personal comments to warm upFind areas of common involvementBe patient: listen, be responsivePresent your argument without threat
What you need to watch out forWhen negotiating with them don’t
Conflicts that have been avoidedTendency to solve other people’s problems while shelving their ownLack of initiativeTendency to side-trackBe tempted to decide for themDomineer, demand, or threatenBe too rigid about the agenda, but keep sight of the goalsForce quick responses

Dodgy tricks and tactics and how to deal with them

When negotiating, not everyone plays fair and some individuals will try to sway a negotiation by using a range of tricks and tactics. Recognising what they are doing is one thing, but knowing how to respond is another, especially when you are under pressure.

Here are some ideas to consider when you are in any of these scenarios: 

BehaviourExampleHow to counter
Controlling the agendaRefusing to let other people have a say. Dominating proceedingsRefer back to the agenda and agreed timeframesAsk questions directed at others to draw in their viewsAgree a time slot for each person to put their case uninterrupted
Aggressive behaviourShouting, swearing, finger pointing, intimidation tacticsSuggest a break to allow tempers to coolHighlight the inappropriate behaviour “I am happy to continue these discussions but only if you refrain from using abusive language”Be prepared to walk away
Everything is rubbishTrashing you, your firm, your ideas….Call their bluff—if you are so rubbish ask why you are thereAsk questions to clarify details of specific complaintsAsk what they would like to see instead
IntimidationBig desk/chair versus little chair, keep you waiting, power handshakesIgnore itIf kept waiting, take other work to read throughIn future suggest an alternate venue or timeDo not be tempted into a tit-for-tat retaliation
I need it now!Giving you urgent and unrealistic timescales to keep you on your toes.Ask whyBe clear about what can be delivered and the timescales involvedBe ready to say no if you are genuinely unable to meet their demands
You scratch my backPromising you good deals in the future if you roll over this time.Remember that unwritten promises are not worth the paper they’re not written onOnly agree to things if they are enforceable in the futureAsk them for a formal proposal
Fobbing you off“It’s incredibly difficult”, “our standard terms are”, “we never usually…”Listen, listen, listen—what are they not saying?Difficult does not equal impossible—explore what could be donePush to see why standard terms can’t be adapted

Lexis®PSL Precedent: Negotiation tactics cheatsheet provides tips on how to counter negotiation tricks and tactics.