What Type of Negotiator Are You?
What type of negotiator are you?
Now think of your most formidable negotiation partner.
What type are they?
In his excellent book Never Split the Difference, former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss explains there are three basic types of negotiators: Assertive, Analyst and Accommodator. Each has different needs, interpretation of time and silence, strengths and weaknesses.
Here's a quick summary:
- Needs to be heard. They're the types to dominate a conversation at every opportunity. If you don't listen to them, they get upset. They can't hear you until they've been heard.
- Time is money. So they get to the point and want things done fast. They're least likely to engage in small talk, because they find it frivolous. They're busy and they're proud of it.
- Silence is a chance to talk some more. They don't think twice about filling the gap in conversation with more of what they think, what they want, and how they want it done.
- Their strength is that they are decisive, candid and straightforward. They're in it to win it. You don't have to question what they're thinking, because they're probably telling you in no uncertain terms.
- Their weakness is that they're focused on their own goals, not people. They often tell rather than ask. Sometimes they come across as harsh.
- To deal with this type, first engage in reflective listening so that you can be heard. Be firm and respectful, but not defensive. This type has "give an inch, take a mile" mentality, so if you give a strategic concession, articulate your expectation for reciprocity. Otherwise, they'll just take more and not give back.
- Needs to avoid mistakes. They're the types to spend hours preparing for a fifteen minute conversation, because they hate mistakes and surprises.
- Time is chance to prepare. They want to take as long as it takes to be fully prepared so they can get it done right.
- Silence is a chance to think. Every time there's a gap in conversation, their wheels are turning, their minds probing and digging deeper. They like to think before they speak.
- Their strength is that they are thorough, methodical and knowledgeable. They come to the negotiating table equipped with data, facts and information. They listen attentively for new information, because to them knowledge is power.
- Their weakness is that they're so focused on analysis, they don't show emotion. They can come across as cold or uncaring if they don't smile. They're also skeptical by nature.
- To deal with this type, come prepared with data, facts and information. Be willing to share knowledge and have a data-driven conversation. Avoid surprises by warning them early of issues. This type is hypersensitive to reciprocity, so if you give a concession, they'll likely return the favor in equal measure...or take their time to study the implications of your concession.
- Needs to be liked. They're the types to focus on power with, or creating harmony and goodwill above making decisions and getting things done.
- Time is chance to bond. As long as they are bonding and building a relationship with you, time is well spent.
- Silence is a sign someone is angry. When there is a gap in conversation, they're the first ones to ask, "What's wrong? Did I upset you? Sorry if I did."
- Their strength is that they are likable and charming. They're friendly and easy to talk to. They're experts at getting you to relax, laugh and bond, which can get you on their side.
- Their weakness is that they don't always voice their objections. They may overpromise on things they can't deliver. Sometimes they say yes to make you happy, but later you find out they really meant no.
- To deal with this type, be friendly but beware of getting stuck in small talk. This type is likely to initiate a concession with the unspoken hope that you will reciprocate. Gently nudge them with open-ended questions and get them to articulate what they want, what they don't want and how you may work together to reach and implement an agreement.
So...are you an archetype or a complex human being?
I think Voss' 3 archetypes are fun (probably because I tend to be analytical) and useful for understanding conflict between types. For example, an assertive's compulsive need to fill every silence with talk might grate on the nerves of an analyst, who just wants a moment of peace to think through the deal points. An analyst's tendencies to quietly mull on information may have the accommodator feeling anxious, the assertive feeling impatient.
But wait a minute. We're not archetypes. We are complex human beings, whose tendencies fluctuate depending on the situation and context. And I think that's a good thing.
Be fully human.
I think the real secret sauce is in becoming type-flexible.
Think of an assertive type who knows how to ask smart questions, to listen deeply and to lead with generosity. It's the leader we want to follow, the wise parent we love and respect. Their negotiation game is strong.
The analyst who knows when to be decisive, how to be vulnerable and to bond with people are the people we want to learn from. They tend to be exceptionally great at consultative sales and negotiation. Their game is also strong.
The accommodating type who knows how to assert their no, to prepare for a data-driven conversation and to manage their time effectively are the people we want to work with. They are both charming and successful at getting what they want. They are the generous leaders in the making.
So the point being, there is no wrong or right type.
The key is in stretching yourself. Tapping into your strengths and turning your weaknesses around.
Be fully human. Give it a try. I bet in no time, you'll be a formidable negotiator.