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Negotiation necessities: Do you possess the personality traits?

Negotiation doesn’t have to be rocket science. Find the strengths that make a good negotiators within yourself to use to your advantage.

Person on phone representing risk management

The literature on negotiation often points to blunders and potentially sabotaging opportunities. Ultimately, negotiation is a skill built through practice and learning, but there is a fair amount of evidence suggesting that our individual differences in personality can impact our negotiation skills.

It’s important to remember, however, that personality merely interacts with other key predictors – like beliefs about negotiation, your conflict style, cognitive ability, and observable characteristics like attractiveness, age, and gender. Situational characteristics, like whether the bargaining is distributive vs. integrative, also determine which personality factors are either helpful or a liability.

Five factors

In the Five Factor Model, particular attention is given to the role of extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Extraversion refers to the degree to which someone is outgoing, socially energetic, and talkative. Agreeableness is a personality trait that is shown in characteristics like warm, kind, sympathetic, cooperative, and considerate.

Finally, conscientiousness is a trait of carefulness, characterized by self-discipline, or planned behavior.

For distributive bargaining, which is often more competitive, both agreeableness and extraversion could be a liability to bargaining success. A fourth factor, neuroticism, can lead to ineffective negotiation strategies and can make you feel less successful with a bargain even if it ends in your favor.

Self-monitoring, or the tendency to examine your own behaviors and the impact it has on others, can also be an asset in negotiation, as those who are self-absorbed or unable to determine their impact on others are likely to fumble and fail to address social cues, negative feedback, or build a relationship – all of which hinder negotiation.

Overly narcissistic or Machiavellianism in personality could be detrimental in negotiations – as people find themselves unable to negotiate with you because you can’t be trusted or are too focused on your own interests. (Dark Triad personality traits include Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. You can find a little primer and some controversial information here.)

More than one factor

While personality can help determine what we may do – it’s not the only thing that controls our behavior. You should leverage your emotional intelligence and your existing knowledge, skills, and abilities to help determine what the best approach is. Here are things to consider when deciding how to leverage your personality for successful negotiations:

  • What is the goal of negotiation? Is it distributive or integrative bargaining?
  • Who is the person you’re negotiating with? Consider gender, age, culture, objectives, communication style, history, or position.
  • What are beliefs you have about this person(s), or that this person(s) have about you?
  • Are you equipped with the right knowledge for this situation?
  • What is your emotional state, and the emotional state of the person(s) you are negotiating with? (leveraging those EQ\emotional intelligence kills!)

Sharpen your emotional IQ

Individual differences do matter in performance and may account for nearly half of the variation in performance across situations. What is equally important, however, is leveraging individual differences with situational factors, and determining what the correct approach is.

Practicing emotional intelligence skills can be helpful as well. Finally, take a quality, peer-reviewed personality assessment and develop some insight into your style and personality traits to better equip you to handle negotiation situations.

Karyl is a Southern transplant, now living on the Central Coast with her husband. She's proud to belong to two very handsome cats, both of which have made it very clear as to where she ranks on the social hierarchy. When she's not working as an optician, you can either find her chipping away at her next science-fiction novel or training for an upcoming race. She holds an AAT in Psychology, which is just a fancy way of saying that she likes poking around inside people's brains. She's very socially awkward and has no idea how to describe herself, which is why this bio is just as dorky and weird as she is.


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