The 3 Types of People in Negotiations

on Thursday, 26 June 2014. Posted in General

Essentially there are three personality types in any negotiation, each with their own skillset and style, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. How they interact can have a great impact on the negotiation outcomes, and a skilled negotiator will learn to recognise each style in his counterpart and use it to his advantage. But they do not exist exclusively and there is an element of each style in every one of us, recognising that and controlling the triggers can be very influential in negotiations.

So who are these negotiators?

Business Negotiation types


The first is possible the most easily recognised because he is the guy most people associate with negotiations. He is the hard ball player, who thrives on the cut and thrust, on the competition and who wants to win everything. This is the guy who will advocate stronger than he will empathise, he likes to be purposeful and in control, rarely patient he seeks out an ambitious position and fights to protect it, he wants the biggest slice of the pie. In a distributive argument he has some advantages but he is also the person most likely to produce a stalemate or escalate a dispute. He is less likely to worry about relationships and may cause damage to them if the other side resents his actions. He is the man who is most likely to get riled up and lose his temper. He may be the man you want on your side for tough distributive questions but he may be the man who breaks down the negotiation. In a dual party negotiation team he will be the bad cop, having recognised him many times in past negotiations, knowing which buttons to push can be useful. If the other side want to use a delay tactic then all they need to do is to wind up the competitor until he loses self-control, then is the time to call for a recess. He is not to be discounted though, when the tough decisions need to be made, he may be the guy to make them. If it is a once off deal, and you have expanded the pie to create all the extra value, he may be the guy for the divisional process.


More likely to empathise than conflict, this negotiator puts serious emphasis on the relationship between the parties. They need to be liked and will often negotiate in a style that is easy on the participants to find a quick resolution that doesn’t damage the relationship. These guys are good listeners, and they tend to have better relationships. They may even be trusted more by the other party, so if you are looking for a negotiator for a long term or repeat business deal this may be the person you are looking for. Sometimes, though, they can get played, if a tough negotiator on the other side tries to hold the relationship hostage, or makes it part of the negotiation collateral then the accommodator may give in on some value issues, or some of the distributive issue. They may not create all the value possible because they may not engage in some of the tough stuff.


These guys think conflict is rarely advantageous or productive and will do their utmost to avoid it. They neither over empathise nor assert, instead they tend to disengage when conflict arises. They can appear distant and uninterested. So what are they doing negotiating you may ask. Well they can have significant strategic advantages, some of the conflicts can be just avoided. Some issues do just go away without being escalated.  More significantly, maybe, like Prince Harry from Shakespeare’s Henry IV part one:

"Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at"

The avoider may carry more weight when they speak and are listened to. However like the competitor they tend to struggle with relationship building and they may leave money on the table because they don’t use the difference in conflict to its full advantage.

So what happens when these negotiators meet?

First of all it is important to recognise that none of these traits are stand-alone people, they don’t exist exclusively and we each have some element of these three characteristics. How we recognise them in ourselves and in our counterparts is crucial, and recognising the triggers that move us from one style to the next is just as important. Know what presses your buttons and sets you off in competitive mode, this is often just as simple as a personality clash, but you need to control it. Know, that when you like someone you negotiate with, at work or in another company that you may be more inclined to accommodate than to test, and definitely know who you avoid issues with. This can often be the boss, if she is a strict, no nonsense type of boss, it can be very prevalent in a small working environment, and for us all it often involves family disputes and negotiations.  

Competitor Meets Competitor:

Negotiation styles in business

Wow, this makes for an exciting negotiation, like a strategic dance, with offer and counter offer flying back and forth, both sides trying to win. Really high energy stuff, unfortunately with nobody listening to the other side they tend to blow completely or they reach a stalemate. They need to trade control and be very careful how they share information and interests.

Competitor Meets Avoider:

There are usually two outcomes, the competitor becomes hugely frustrated and ends up making concessions to invite the avoider in, and so becomes exploited, or the avoider becomes completely alienated and doesn’t engage at all. The challenge for the competitor is to make the negotiation inviting enough for the avoider and for the avoider to become more comfortable with assertion.

Competitor Meets Accommodator:

A nightmare for the accommodator, where has the relationship gone? The competitor can often exploit the accommodator’s will to get results quickly by forcing concessions. The accommodator needs to improve assertiveness to match empathy before he gives in and misses opportunity to advocate his own cause.

Accommodator Meets Accommodator:

There will be resolution and usually quite quickly, but not all the value will be gleaned from the process and it might be better to sometime engage in the differences and use them to expand the pie.

Accommodator Meets Avoider:

It either goes nowhere fast, because the accommodator looks after the avoider’s issues and they just avoid the discussion. However a skilful accommodator will keep the temperament in the right zone and will coax the avoider into discussion.

Avoider Meets Avoider:

What conflict, we don’t see any conflict here. They just won’t face up to the issues at all, not a good plan in the long run.

Would you like to learn more about negotiations?

We provide businesses throughout Ireland with negotiation skills training. If you would like to learn more about contact 086 8341436.

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