Some people think life is a zero-sum game: for them to win, someone
else needs to lose. They drive a tough bargain and strive to come out ahead in every deal they make. However, folks with this
mindset are rarely among the top performers within their profession, at least in the United States.
That’s because most Americans believe in the value of
“win-win.” As negotiators, they prefer a cooperative style, trying to identify mutually beneficial solutions that
allow both sides to gain more than they have to give up in order to reach agreement. For instance, a salesman may toss free
service into the deal when you are buying a new car, rather than further reducing the price. The value to you is higher than the
cost to them, so both sides stay ahead.
The beauty of a win-win approach is that reaching agreement is often
easier, that both parties are usually more committed to what they view a fair deal, and that future negotiations between them will
likely take place in a spirit of cooperation and trust. Pro- ponents argue that top players in business succeed by constantly
creating win-win situations rather than by leaving a trail of losers in the dust. Simply put, negotiating cooperatively
Different Negotiation Styles
As already mentioned, not everyone seems to agree. Some people
may prefer compromising, others are fiercely competitive, and others again can be outright adversarial when negotiating. This
spectrum becomes even more pronounced in international business, where different cultures have different preferences. Here are
the four primary styles one may encounter:
1. Cooperative-Compromising Negotiators
These negotiators often have a propensity for finding compromises
that require both sides to move from their previous position simultaneously. They may suggest to “meet in the middle”
or promote “shared gain/shared pain” approaches. They may pursue win-win strategies as well but may not spend much
energy on finding the best solution.
This style is often preferred in egalitarian cultures, especially
those where people generally dislike bargaining and haggling. Examples are Sweden, Norway, Finland, or Thailand. When dealing
with such people, keep your offers to within the range of your true expectations and do not haggle much over items.
2. Cooperative-“Win-Win” Negotiators
This is the win-win style many Americans prefer. It unites the
parties in a problem-solving mission to find a solution that maximizes the value of the deal for both of them.
This style is preferred by people in many other countries, for
instance most in Western and Central Europe, India, Japan, as well as in Latin American countries such as Argentina or Venezuela.
In all of them, negotiations are most productive if offers and their benefits to both sides are clearly explained. Keep in mind
that non-tangible benefits such as gains in status or prestige can play a big role, too.
3. Competitive-Cooperative Negotiators
All negotiations inevitably include elements of competition.
How- ever, people who prefer a competitive-cooperative style focus their energy on getting the better side of the deal. They often
strive to get the most favorable terms for themselves without being overly concerned about the other’s outcome. Smart
negotiators will adopt cooperative elements as well, but only because they realize that deals leaving a bad taste in the mouth
of the “loser” are not in their best interest.
Competitive-cooperative negotiation styles dominate in Asian
countries like China, South Korea, or Pakistan, in the Middle East and many countries around the Mediterranean Sea, in Eastern
Europe, and in places in Latin America such as Brazil. Remain calm, refuse extreme offers, and insist on reciprocity of all
concessions when dealing with such negotiators.
4. Competitive-Adversarial Negotiators
Lastly, these are people who believe that a good deal requires
“fighting it out.” They may use all kinds of pressure and aggres- sion tactics, such as anger, warnings, threats,
or walkouts. Some of them are even convinced that deals that were reached without strong conflict are not likely to last long.
Proponents of this style are primarily found in Russia, Ukraine,
and a few other former East Bloc countries. With a competitive-adversarial negotiator, it is vital to remain firm and persistent,
to avoid being intimidated, never to take anything personally, and to remain constructive without giving in to any pressures.