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It’s All a Matter of Style!

Even though my students are training to become mediators, I raise the important issue of negotiation style with them; after all, as mediators, they are, in effect, negotiating with the parties. No doubt, these students did not give much thought to how their style of negotiating impacts their role as mediators or its effect on the parties and the mediation itself until I raised it.

The Harvard PONs blog posted a concise article on negotiation styles recently. While it does so in the context of the negotiator, it is equally applicable to mediators (or any other third party that helps the negotiations along.)  In Identify Your Negotiation Style: Advanced Negotiation Strategies and Concepts” by Pon staff (July 11,2022),  four styles are identified: Individualists, Cooperators, Competitives and Altruists.

Those in the first category- Individualists- are most concerned about their own outcomes and care very little about those of the adversary. Their negotiations are all about claiming value rather than creating value, sometimes using force and threats to get their way. To such negotiators, the negotiation is a “I win- you lose” or zero- sum game. (Id.)

In contrast, Cooperators are concerned not only with maximizing their own gain but that of their adversary as well. Thus, they are open to creating value and will exchange information and make multi-issue offers. The authors note that only about 25% to 35% of the U.S. population fall into this category (as contrasted to about 50% of the population being Individualists.) (Id.)

Those who are Competitive “… are motivated to maximize the difference between their own and others’ outcomes.” (Id.) They have a desire “to win big” and so “tend to engage in behavior that is self-serving and that blocks collaborative solutions.” (Id.) About 5 to 10% of the U. S. population fall into this category. (Id.)

Finally, are the Altruists whose motto is “I lose, you win.” In essence this group “… strive[s] to maximize their counterparts’ outcomes rather than their own.” (Id.) While most of us normally do not ascribe to this negotiation style, there are times when we do it, such as with a loved one or to avoid hurting others. (Id.)

The blog post concludes with the analysis that most research indicates that when seeking novel solutions in which every party gains, a primarily cooperative style of negotiation tends to be the most successful.  More importantly, those who do use this style, seemed more satisfied with both the process and the outcome. (Id.)

So- the next time you negotiate, think about the style you are using and whether it will enhance or diminish your prospects for success.

…. Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE

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