Kicking off this five-part mini-series, we start with the most aggressive negotiation style. Typically, this approach follows the notion of “I win, you lose”, and negotiators who choose to adopt it can appear ruthless in chasing down their most favored outcome with barely any concern for the opposing party. Driven by results and with a strong focus on immediate gains, they care little about reaching a mutually beneficial agreement and are much more likely to negatively impact the negotiation process. The “at all cost”-attitude is synonymous with the use of any power-plays and tactics at the disposal of the negotiator. Personality, position, strength, and size of brand or company, economic threats, or market share; everything goes.
In choosing the competitive style, it is important to realize that it tends to push you away from a negotiation that emphasizes a steady and healthy long-term relationship with the opposing party. However, this is not to say that it cannot be useful in certain situations. Single-occasion transactions can definitely be competitive. Imagine buying or selling a second-hand car to a stranger compared to a family member (you actually like)! The former would be a one-off deal and you’d probably never see them again. In the latter case, there’s more on the line and being too competitive could actually strain your relationship with this person and ruin Christmas!
Being competitive can also work to your advantage when you have little to no time to reach a short-term agreement, or when it’s clear that something is non-negotiable and critical to you or requires immediate compliance. On the off-chance you’re faced with a fiercely competitive opposing team, make sure not to be outgunned and try to even the playing field by either having your own competitive style negotiator, or by becoming more aggressive on an individual basis. Watch out, though! Over-do it and you risk endangering the entire negotiation…
Risks and Vulnerabilities
… because a face-off between competitive negotiation styles has a knack of leading to a spiralling deadlock and will eventually get you nowhere. Competitive style negotiators sometimes focus too much on winning over agreeing, and as they become increasingly predictable in their “bullying” tactics, the opposing party has their work cut out for them: Coming up with a disabling defence was never easier and any goodwill soon disappears.
Following from this, we advise you to combine competitive elements with either an accommodating or collaborating style, or, if you have the option of fielding several negotiators on a single team, balance it out by having different style negotiators working together. Try to build and maintain strong relationships instead of becoming too competitive and allowing it to damage your reputation as a respectable partner.
What you should definitely watch out for when negotiating with a highly competitive party, is not to automatically concede. All too frequently, a non-competitive negotiator assumes that making several concessions is likely to keep a blood-thirsty opponent at bay, hoping their actions will foster goodwill or a sense of empathy. It is an understandable thought, but extremely risky and potentially devastating. A prime example of such an attempt can be found in today’s history books: the Allied Forces tried to appease Hitler before he took over most of Europe during World War II. To a ruthless competitive negotiator, appeasement does nothing to contain their appetite for more, and potentially triggers them to be even more aggressive. It is therefore important to not give in, hold your position and push back. Avoid an overly accommodating negotiation style and clearly emphasize and communicate your own wants and needs.
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.