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Traits Possessed by Successful Negotiators

By Charles B. Craver

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For almost forty years, I have been teaching negotiation skills to both law students and legal practitioners. In my law school course, students explore the impact of negotiators styles on bargaining interactions, the six stages of the negotiation process, different bargaining techniques, verbal and nonverbal communication, transnational dealings, negotiation ethics, and similar issues. They are divided into different groups and assigned a number of negotiation exercises. The first five or six are entirely for practice to enable them to see how the concepts being studied affect bargaining interactions and to enable them to experiment with different approaches. They then work on five or six exercises, the results of which are rank ordered from high to low, with final student scores affecting their course grades. They thus take these exercises quite seriously.

For a number of years, I have been trying to determine the factors possessed by the more proficient negotiators. I initially decided to compare student bargaining exercise results with their grade point averages (GPAs) when they finished law school. I thought that better students might be more effective negotiators, based upon the belief that good students are intelligent, industrious, articulate, and well-organized. In two separate studies, I found absolutely no statistically significant correlation between student GPAs and their performance on negotiation exercises. I then realized that I was comparing different capabilities. Successful students have high abstract reasoning skills, while adept negotiators possess good inter-personal skills.

Daniel Goleman believes that if it is not IQ, it must be EQ – emotional intelligence. I recently conducted a study with psychologist Dr. Allison Abbe to determine whether emotional intelligent scores correlate positively with negotiation exercise results. We found no statistically significant relationship. Part of this finding may reflect the fact we have to use paper and pencil tests to calculate emotional intelligence, but our results are consistent with previous studies comparing these two factors.

As a result of questions I used to get from senior law firm partners asking if I thought that women could negotiate as effectively as men, I have performed several studies comparing the results achieved on negotiation exercises by men and women. Although studies have found that women are not as comfortable negotiating as men, I have found no statistically significant differences with respect to the results achieved by male and female students on my course exercises. The only statistically significant difference concerns the fact that a greater percentage of women take my course on a credit/no-credit basis than men, supporting the theory that they are less comfortable with the competitive aspect of bargaining interactions.

Traits Possessed by Successful Negotiators By Charles B. Craver


Copyright © 2012 Charles B. Craver
Copyright ©   2012  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (November, 2012)