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Do Unto Others: Respecting Your Counterpart’s Negotiating Style
Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty

Successful negotiators have a positive vision of their success, know their subject matter and have a firm grasp of the negotiation process. In addition, they have a good understanding of people. Accomplished negotiators know not only their own personal negotiating style, but also their counterpart’s preferred style–and they use this knowledge to build a stronger relationship that will help accomplish their goals.

Most people undervalue the impact of behavioral styles on a negotiation. Many negotiators use the same approach in every negotiation and are surprised when they do not get consistent results. But an approach that works well for one counterpart’s negotiating style can actually cause deadlock with a counterpart who has a different style. Everyone is different and every negotiation is different. People who acknowledge these differences and vary their approach to negotiations, practice what Dr. Tony Alessadra refers to as "The Platinum Rule of Negotiation™," which is "Do unto others as they want to be done unto." In other words, successful negotiators tailor their approach to the behavioral style and needs of their counterparts.

Being able to identify a counterpart’s preferred style and adapt your own style accordingly can be incredibly helpful in building productive relationships. With that concept in mind, let’s take a look at the characteristics that will help you identify your counterpart’s preferred style, and consider some tips to building relationships that lead to win-win outcomes.

First, we will discuss Amiables. Negotiators who use the Amiable style have a strong need to feel recognized and valued in the negotiating partnership. Because they have a strong concern for relationships, they tend to focus more on feelings and less on facts. They will often begin a negotiation with social conversation that is unrelated to the negotiation. They are trusting, optimistic and generally committed to outcomes that benefit both parties.

To build rapport with your Amiable counterpart, show genuine respect and care. Be sincere, and don’t discount personal feelings. Remain positive and solution oriented. Do not go "head to head" in a confrontational manner, which will most likely cause the Amiable to retreat and end the negotiation. Negotiate in a manner that builds trust and understand that for your Amiable counterpart, negotiation is more than just business, it is personal. Never tell an Amiable, "Don’t take it personally."

Another style that you may encounter when negotiating is the Driver. Drivers and Amiables are often noted to be at opposite ends of the behavioral style continuum. While Amiables are focused on the relationship with their counterpart, Drivers are results-oriented and focused primarily on the bottom line. Drivers have a strong concern for outcomes and when ruthlessly pursuing their goal, may become shark like. They tend to be impatient, have little need for detailed information, and want to move the negotiation to closure quickly. Drivers are self-confident, assertive, and when feeling cornered, may become aggressive in their tactics. While both the Amiable and the Driver have a need to achieve a positive outcome, for the Driver, winning is all important.

Preparation is critical when negotiating with a Driver. Know your bottom line. Be prepared and keep your interactions focused on business. This will help you remain assertive, direct, focused and succinct. We are fond of saying, "You can tell a Driver, but you can’t tell them much, so don’t try." Instead, ask questions that allow Drivers to discover solutions and suggest acceptable alternatives. Understand that when negotiating with a Driver, however ruthless your counterpart becomes, it’s not personal, just business from the Driver’s perspective.

If your negotiating counterpart appears cautious and reserved, he or she may be using the Analytical style. True Analyticals methodically explore all options, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for a fair and economical outcome. Analyticals have a strong need for facts and details, and won’t move forward unless they have had the opportunity to carefully analyze all available data. They tend to process information slowly and may be somewhat withdrawn or unemotional during the negotiation. They are organized, systematic and approach the negotiation methodically, one step at a time.

To build rapport and gain respect from your Analytical counterpart, do your homework before the negotiation begins. Make sure your research is complete and accurate. Keep your discussions factual and business related. Be honest, ethical and demonstrate ways in which outcomes will be advantageous in terms of money, time, or resources conserved. Finally, be patient and respect the analytical’s need to process information methodically.

The last style we will discuss is the Blend. Blends are people who have no clear preference for one style, but use a combination of styles. Blends are personable, social and often have a sense of humor. They are flexible, creative and open to change. They are big picture thinkers and often have little need for details.

To build rapport with Blends, take the time to begin the negotiation on a social note. Be creative in your solutions and focus on coming up with a number of viable options. When you reach agreement on details, make sure that the deal points are clarified and specific before finalizing the negotiation.

Determining Your Counterpart’s Behavioral Style

Now that you have a general understanding of the different styles counterparts may use when negotiating, you may be wondering how to identify your counterpart’s specific style. There are three main ways: (1) general observation, (2) listening and (3) asking questions.

General Observation

You will get your first clues about your counterpart’s style through general observation. When you walk into your counterpart’s office, look around. The types of things that are displayed on the walls or desk can provide insight into what your counterpart feels is important. Are family pictures or company photos displayed, indicating that relationships are important? If so, you may be negotiating with an Amiable or a Blend. Are the walls covered with plaques and certificates noting achievements and displaying a pride in accomplishment? This may indicate that your counterpart is a Driver. Is the office neat and organized, or are stacks of files and papers lying around? The neater and more organized the office is, the greater the likelihood that you are negotiating with an Analytical. It is important to note that you cannot determine your counterpart’s style by observation alone, but you can certainly gain some initial insights.


A second tool for helping you identify your counterpart’s style is listening. For example, an employee meets with her company’s management team and says she would like to retire within one year. The manager who is a Driver asks, "What is the exact date you would like to retire?" Another manager, an Amiable, asks, "Is there anything we can do to create an environment that would make you want to stay longer?" A third manager, who is a Blend, comments, "Great! Another reason to bring the team together for a happy hour!" And a fourth manager, an Analytical, states, "For the next year, we would like you to write down in detail what you do on a daily basis so we will have a step-by-step manual to train your replacement.

Asking Questions

A third way to determine your counterpart’s behavioral style is by asking questions and listening carefully to the responses. For example, to determine if your counterpart is a Driver or an Analytical, you could ask, "We have a 60-page document that supports our position. Would you like me to review the complete document with you, or would you like to see the two-page summary?" An Analytical will almost always want to review the entire document, while a Driver will usually want to see the two-page summary.

Other good questions to help you determine your negotiating counterpart’s style might be, "How are you doing today?" or "How was your weekend?" In response, Amiables will typically give a lot of information, much of it personal. In fact, Amiables will often provide far more information than Drivers or Analyticals want to know! Drivers responding to the same type of questions will simply respond, "Fine," and quickly switch the topic to the business at hand.

Applying Your Knowledge of Behavioral Styles

The ability to identify, understand and respect your counterparts’ negotiating styles–and adapt your style accordingly–can help you build productive relationships that lead to win-win outcomes. Remembering Dr. Tony Alessandra’s Platinum Rule of Negotiation™, "Do unto others as they want to be done unto," will serve you well in every negotiation you enter.


™The Platinum Rule is a registered trademark of Dr. Tony Alessandra

Peter Barron Stark and Jane Flaherty are co-authors of The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need, published in September, 2003. They travel internationally training leaders, sales professionals, and procurement specialists in the art of negotiation. Their clients include Alcon Laboratories, Lowe’s, the NFL, Ralston Purina, SONY, Virgin Entertainment, Wells Fargo and WD-40. You may the visit their web site at www.everyonenegotiates.com or contact them by telephone at (877) 727.6468 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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Copyright ©2003, Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty
Copyright ©2003, The Negotiator Magazine