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What’s Your Negotiating Style?

by Alan Schoonmaker |  Published: Apr 22, 2020


Karen Horney, an eminent psychoanalyst, wrote that we relate to people in three ways. We move:

1. Toward them with friendliness
2. Away from them with impersonal analysis
3. Against them with aggression

We all have a basic relationship style, and it closely resembles our negotiating style. We relate and negotiate in the style that makes us comfortable, and then rationalize that it’s the best way to get good results:

• Friendly people say, “Build good relationships.”
• Aggressive ones insist: “Take control.”
• Analytic negotiators believe, “You’re both wrong. Minimize personalities and emphasize facts and logic.”

Each style succeeds in some situations, fails in others. The more extreme your style is, the less you’ll adjust to situational demands. Jan Siroky, a respected tournament coach, has described some additional styles. I agree there are more than three negotiating styles, but they’re all affected by your general relationship pattern.

A brief quiz will identify your relationship style. Then we’ll discuss your negotiating strengths and weakness.


Divide ten points for each question. Be honest: Write what you really think, not what you believe is the best answer.

1. Which word best describes you?
___ A. Aggressive
___ B. Friendly
___ C. Analytic

2. I emphasize:
___ A. Power
___ B. Friendly relationships
___ C. Facts & logic

3. I value most:
___ A. Respect
___ B. Affection
___ C. Space

4. When buying, my first offer is:
___ A. Much less than I’ll pay to get the lowest price
___ B. Close to what I’ll pay to build relationships
___ C. Close to what I’ll pay because it’s the most reasonable offer

5. When shaking hands, I:
___ A. Move close, shake briefly and forcefully, squeeze their hand, and look intently into their eyes to communicate: “I’m stronger, smarter, and tougher than you are.”
___ B. Move close, shake gently, hold their hand for long time, and smile warmly to communicate: “Let’s be friends.”
___ C. Stay far away, shake briefly, and minimize eye contact to communicate: “I don’t want a personal relationship.”

6. When preparing to negotiate, I emphasize learning:
___ A. People’s strengths and weaknesses
___ B. People’s personalities
___ C. Impersonal facts such as computer formulas

7. When negotiating, I communicate:
___ A. Deceptively to increase my power
___ B. Openly to create trusting relationships
___ C. Openly so everybody has good information

8. My primary negotiating objective is to:
___ A. Win
___ B. Build relationships
___ C. Reach rational deals

9. I react to hard bargaining:
___ A. Positively, I love competition
___ B. Negatively, I detest conflict
___ C. Negatively, it produces irrational deals

10. I like:

A. Successful people

B. Friendly people

C. Logical people


Add up the points. They must total 100.
Aggressive ___
Friendly ___
Analytic ___


If one score is above 55, it’s your natural style. The higher your score, the more extreme you are.

If no score exceeds 55, but two scores total 80, you’re that combination.
If neither of the above, your style is balanced.


Every style has strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a brief summary. Future columns will provide more details.


Negotiating Strengths: Your competitive aggression produces some great deals. You understand and use power well, make extreme demands, stonewall, bluff, openly express anger, and lie.

Negotiating Weaknesses: You’re terrible at cooperating and building relationships.
You won’t compromise.

To avoid admitting that you made a mistake, you often won’t change bad strategies.
You’re insensitive to people’s relationship signals.

You push too far and cause many deadlocks.

You create enemies. You make others feel like losers. To avoid that feeling, they may become rigid or even reject acceptable deals.


Negotiating Strengths: You make deals that aggressive competitors couldn’t make, reduce personal conflicts, and reach win-win deals because:

• You want everyone to feel good about the deal and negotiating process.
• You reduce tensions and break deadlocks.
• You listen well and learn others’ situations and motives.
• You encourage some people to become more open-minded and flexible.
• When people’s minds become more open, they may stop focusing only on your position versus mine, explore other alternatives, and agree on a better solution.
• You build trusting relationships. Some people like to work with you, and they may even accept an inferior deal.

NEGOTIATING WEAKNESSES: Your cooperative strengths are competitive weakness, especially when your interests are completely opposed, as they are in most tournament negotiations.

You may even deny reality about conflict and believe that all negotiations can be win-win. Zero-sum games are NEVER win-win.

You openly share information and expect others to do the same. But many negotiators (including non-aggressive ones) withhold information, bluff, and lie. The information you give away is often used against you.

You make too many concessions. You’re too nice to fight for your fair share.


Negotiating Strengths: Your impersonality helps you to remain cool and logical, even when others become irrationally emotional.

You prepare very well. You thoroughly understand ICM, Chip Chops, and other formulas. You check everything. Your thoroughness is extremely valuable:

• You have important facts right at your fingertips.
• You learn about other alternatives.
• You catch computational errors, including deliberate ones.
• Because you’re calm and impersonal, you don’t create macho contests.
• You can reject this deal and make a different one later.

While negotiating, you analyze issues thoroughly. You understand the implications of any position before acting.

Because you don’t talk much, you often get much more information than you give. Some people talk too much, giving away valuable information, trying to force you to react.
You’re willing to walk away rather than accept a bad deal or respond to an unrealistic position.

Negotiating Weaknesses: You dislike negotiations, especially their “game-playing” elements. Unfortunately, many people regard these elements as essential.

You ignore essential rituals, especially the mutual concession ritual. (I give a little; you give a little; again and again until we reach a mutually acceptable deal.) Many people regard that ritual as the essence of negotiations.

Instead of building “fat” into your proposal, then trading it away, you start too close to your WAP (Walk Away Point). You then can’t move much, and others may feel “you’re not bargaining in good faith.”

Because you think there’s a “right” deal, you may refuse to make compromises, especially “game-playing” ones.

You often ignore “irrational” subjects such as the other people’s personalities, motives, and emotions.

You try to convert competitive negotiations into analytic problem-solving sessions.
You’re insensitive to other peoples’ motives and concerns. You miss signals because you focus too intently on impersonal facts and figures.

You’re too predictable. Others can often accurately determine and exploit your limits, priorities, power, and strategy.


First, show this column and your score to someone you trust and ask for comments. You may learn a lot about yourself.

Second, refer to this column (especially your score) when future columns teach you how to:

1. Build on your strengths and reduce your weaknesses.
2. Adjust your style when negotiating with various types of people. ♠

Alan SchoonmakerEmail for information about negotiating books and training.