Last week we covered the pros and cons of the “I win, you lose” mindset that follows from a competing negotiation style, but what about the opposite accommodating approach? How could “I lose, you win” possibly benefit a negotiator? As we mentioned before, it is very rarely the case that a single negotiation style will successfully guide you through an entire negotiation process. Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses and understanding when to change it up is key to getting an optimum outcome.
Even though the value of the accommodating approach might be lost on you at first hand, its strength lies in its ability to build initial rapport or repair existing relationships with other negotiating parties at the cost of giving up some of your own interests. Especially when a relationship is strained or in any way critically damaged due to your own doing, opting for this style could potentially make up for it and communicate to the other party that you are willing to repair the harm done.
Also, when you find yourself in a weak position in comparison to your opponent and you have very few strategic options left, accommodating the other party while simultaneously gently reminding them of the value that your relationship has for both sides can lead them to ease off on you. Especially if there’s a mutual intention to continue ahead with a healthy and harmonious partnership.
Risks and Vulnerabilities
It probably does not come as much of a surprise that this style can be tricky. In its purest form, accommodators aim to be well-liked and try to win people over by giving in to their demands. Kindness, though, is rarely a solution to a negotiation conflict. When you start to give in on resources, services, and information you run the risk of being taken advantage of, especially when faced with an opponent who is highly competitive. They may view your generosity as either a weakness or as a sign of wealth and will likely push for even more gains as time progresses.
Another important realisation is that a harmonious relationship can also be achieved by other less “expensive” methods than the accommodating approach. Just as spending all your money on lottery tickets doesn’t guarantee winning the jackpot or going on expensive dates probably won’t change someone’s mind about them liking you, accommodating your opponent is not a sustainable path to take. With a few adaptations and some proper training, accommodative can become collaborative, eventually benefitting you both.
What should you look out for when you’re pitched against an accommodative negotiator? Start by making sure that the person you will be dealing with has sufficient decision-making power within their company or organization. If this is not the case, you might encounter a situation in which an eventual deal falls apart because the concessions made by the negotiator are vetoed by a superior higher up the chain of management, resulting in a significant setback for both parties.
Additionally, there is nothing wrong with reciprocity within the confines of a healthy negotiation or working relationship. Following up a gesture of kindness with one of your own can certainly strengthen an existing bond. However, watch out for accommodative behaviour that is used as a manipulative tool meant to push you towards or trick you into making concessions of your own. Such attempts can be subtle, and you should remain vigilant. Determine what you’re willing to give up if you choose to do so, and make sure that they are at very most proportional to those from the opposing party.
IntelleXt is an AI startup that is revolutionizing the way contracts are negotiated, accelerating time to close, and improving deal terms. IntelleXt’s Intelligent Negotiation Platform™ eliminates the complexities of contract redlines and stakeholder collaboration and optimizes deal terms by applying machine learning during the negotiation process.
Fengwei David An is IntelleXt’s Game Theory & Analytics Research Manager. He has extensive knowledge and practical experience in decision-making processes, negotiations, and compliance through his work in public as well as in private enterprises.