What’s Your Negotiating Style?

I had a conversation today about negotiations—something everyone will encounter in their life. They can be as complicated as working out deal terms for a large investment in a company or as simple as a child trying to convince their parents they should have a later bedtime. The most common example I heard people talk about today was negotiating salary with an employer.

Books and strategies on negotiating abound. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong approach, only what’s ideal for the personality of the person doing the negotiating. (Note: there are some things everyone should avoid!)

Understanding the person you’re negotiating with is important. Understanding their negotiating style can inform how you negotiate. But it isn’t always easy to understand someone’s style. One of the people I chatted with shared a straightforward approach to quickly understanding someone’s style: at the beginning of the conversation, ask them: “What’s your negotiating style?” In his experience, most people will be caught off guard. Either they’ll tell you how they negotiate, or their response will give you clues about their style. For example, someone will say they’re a straight shooter. Someone else, to keep from showing their hand, won’t give you clear answers. Either way, you’ve learned something about their negotiating style that’s useful.

I like this direct approach and plan to use it when I negotiate with someone for the first time.