Want to Be a Better Negotiator, Remember This About Yourself

We all have a way of being in the world. We all have a way of doing things. We all have a way of expressing ourselves. 

This “doing,”, “being,” and “expressing” could be aptly described as one’s style.  

How would you describe your style? 

More specifically, how would you describe your negotiating style? 

Several years ago, I asked this question in a very unscientific survey. In fact, you may recall my doing so :). 

Here are some of the answers I got to my question:

  • “I am open.” When I asked what was meant by that, they said, “Really, I am passive, aggressive.”
  • “I am crude.” When I asked for an explanation, the person said, “I have no social skills. I speak first, then consider my word choice later.”
  • “It needs help…it’s either my way or no way.”
  • “I feel insecure.”
  • “I figure it out on the fly.”
  • “When I am in India*, I do it all the time because that is what is expected. But when I’m here [in America], I avoid it.” Further into the conversation, she admitted she’s never negotiated her salary. (*The person is South Asian.)
  • “I am assertive, collaborative, kind, compassionate, in service, generous, firm.”
  • “It makes me anxious.”

I bet you’ve heard the adage, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” 

Re-reading the above responses made me think of this phrase. Because, if I had the chance, I’d follow-up with each person and ask, for example, “Where else in your life are you passive, aggressive?” or “When else do you speak first, reflect later?” or “When else do you feel insecure?”

So often we try to bifurcate our lives – personal here; business over there. But, everything is interconnected. Sure, certain situations and circumstances may illuminate different aspects of your personality and style. Yet, at the end of the day, who you are is who you are. 

Who you are often shows up in your behavioral patterns. Often, without you even being aware. 

And Your Style Is…

When you think of your style (negotiating or otherwise), would you say you like to compete; do you view yourself as a collaborator; do you have a tendency to compromise – and not feel good about it; do you often avoid tricky conversations – regardless of the topic; do you find yourself being so accommodating that you downplay your own needs and wants?

Compete, collaborate, compromise, avoid, and accommodate are common and different styles of negotiating. While your “style” is likely a blend of a few, one is probably more in the forefront. Not only is it your dominant style, it is possibly unconsciously so. 

And the thing about your style is that it is a mixture – like a recipe: some elements can probably be traced back to your temperament (nature); to your upbringing (nurture); and to any modifications you’ve made based upon experience.

Being attuned to your behavioral patterns and how they show up as your negotiating style is a key thing to keep in mind. Especially, if you want to be a better negotiator. And who amongst us doesn’t want to get better at advocating for what they want and need — for what is important to them?

I know I do. I am taking the liberty to presume the same for you.

The Clues Are There

Last week I invited you to reflect on what you negotiated (that day). When you think back to the example that came to mind for you, which style would you ascribe to how you showed up to that negotiation? Would your dominant style be compete, collaborate, compromise, avoid, or accommodate?

In the days since, when else or where else has that “style” shown up for you? And how does who you were negotiating with affect your style? 

Do you notice a difference in your style when the relationship matters to you more than the substance of what’s being negotiated? What about when the substance matters more than the relationship?

If you’ve never really paid much attention to your negotiating style or the elements that influence it and that it influences, you are missing a key ingredient for figuring out how to get better at it. (By the way, it’s not about a style being “bad” or “good.” It’s about amplifying your self-awareness.) 

So, remember this about yourself: “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” Yes, it may be a trite phrase; but that doesn’t diminish its value.

Therefore, pay attention to how you interact in other spheres of your life. Because the clues are there. Always.  

And those clues can influence how you show up to the negotiating table – literally and figuratively.

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