When we talk about negotiations, we tend to think about them in transactional and economical terms. How much is this worth? How much do I get? How much can we trade? There is real validity in seeing negotiations in those scopes. However it’s not only the what, but also the how negotiations are done, and that extends not only to the negotiations but also to the negotiators. A big part of what makes up a negotiator is what makes up a person, and that extends to and includes their personality. How we generally act in person is usually how we act in a negotiation since a lot of our lives are negotiations. That is how we get to the Big Five personality traits, which according to verywellmind, are the ‘five core personality traits’ that we all possess. The Big Five traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. If you want to have an easier way to remember the Big Five traits, the OCEAN acronym works best just in case. In this article, I am going to talk about Neuroticism and how that personality trait affects negotiation behavior.
What is Neuroticism?
Neuroticism is one of the Big Five or OCEAN personality traits. Neuroticism is located along a spectrum, which in other ways means that it has a correlation with various sets of behavioral and personality traits. It is important to note that everyone is located somewhere along the spectrum, some being higher or lower than others and just being neurotic doesn’t mean you’re “abnormal”. It is also important to note that someone’s placement on the spectrum can change over time as one can be a short-term phase dependent, similar to a young kid who may initially be reliant on help, but the older they get, they can function independently on their own without help. Those low in neuroticism are emotionally stable, deal well with stress, and are very relaxed (however those low in neuroticism may also be less prone to express positive emotions), while those high in neuroticism experience a lot of stress, worry about many different things, and struggle to bounce back after stressful events. It is however to mention that stress can be helpful to those who function best in a stressful environment as it isn’t inherently bad all the time. Think of a time when you were worried about a test coming up, or you’re at a party and you don’t know anyone there, essentially that’s what neuroticism feels like. While it’s not ideal to always be neurotic, there are benefits to it according to Psycom, one being that those high in neuroticism are better at handling negative emotions, which can help make them more understanding of other people’s struggles.
How Does Neuroticism Play a Factor into Negotiations?
While it may carry some positive traits being neurotic, being neurotic may not sound entirely ideal in a negotiation setting considering how some negotiations do get stressful, which may not be compatible with negotiators who are neurotic. According to studies conducted on the subject: “people high in neuroticism are less likely to have compromising preferences for conflict handling….” (Ma, 18) which means that those who are high in neuroticism are less willing to compromise or agree with other negotiators. One might think that this means that neurotic negotiators are more likely to compete or directly avoid a negotiation situation, however the same study found “that the predicted positive relationship between neuroticism and competing or avoiding was not supported in this study” (Ma, 18) This is an interesting point of this study since it’s assumed that those neurotic might act in a strict defensive manner if they don’t get what they want.
So what does this mean? While it may appear that being neurotic isn’t entirely ideal all the time in a negotiation, it does show what we can do to make a negotiation environment more welcoming for those who may be neurotic. On the negotiator’s side, one can consider utilizing a more integrative approach or an approach that considers the wants and needs of not only your side but the other side as well. One can consider first building a relationship with the other client, which would help alleviate stress and anxiety one may have about the initial state of the negotiations. Having a positive relationship not only creates a better integrative environment, but in general a better negotiation environment for both sides that can lead to a fair outcome to both sides. However, other research has argued that being neurotic or in general having negative moods “may be helpful for enhancing an information processing style that is bottom-up, more systematic, and detailed” (Sharma et al. 22). In other words this shows how neurotic personalities can help retain information in a given negotiation given that one who is highly neurotic is best at thinking over minute details that others might not notice. While being neurotic isn’t ideal for a given negotiator role, this could show a silver lining in being neurotic may be helpful in a more analysis role for a negotiation team to consider.
What Does this Mean?
Compared to the other Big Five Personality traits, neuroticism is probably one of the most unique ones of the bunch since it’s the one that lacks a good relation with any specific negotiation strategy. Being high in neuroticism may yield some struggles such as proneness to stress and worry. However, like with the other personality traits, neuroticism does carry its benefits as well, one of them being that it can help process information better than the other Big Five traits. While it does show that neuroticism and negotiation aren’t directly related, it also highlights the importance of better technologies that can help pick up on behavioral tendencies and make the best communication recommendations in response.
Ma, Zhenzhong. “Exploring the Relationships between the Big Five Personality Factors, Conflict Styles, and Bargaining Behaviors.” SSRN Electronic Journal, June 2005, doi:10.2139/ssrn.735063.
Sharma, Sudeep, et al. “On the Role of Personality, Cognitive Ability, and Emotional Intelligence in Predicting Negotiation Outcomes.” Organizational Psychology Review, vol. 3, no. 4, 18 Oct. 2013, pp. 293–336., doi:10.1177/2041386613505857.
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.
Seth is a Behavioral Research intern at Intellext. He is currently a Business Administration student at UC Merced where he’ll graduate at the end of this year. Being born and raised in the Bay Area, he always had a fondness for California due to its beautiful sights, weather, and culture. After graduation, he plans to venture further into the world of finance with the hopes of becoming an analyst and eventually earning his MBA.