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Lead Your Team Strategy

What It Takes to Have Successful Negotiations

What It Takes to Have Successful Negotiations
Credit: Baranq/Shutterstock

How well your business's negotiations go depends on more than just the skills of the person conducting the negotiation. New research suggests that the personality traits of the negotiators – on both sides of the table – play a key role.

A study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that negotiations work best when both negotiators have matching personality traits. This holds true even when both sides are disagreeable.

Fadel Matta, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, said normally people think that, when it comes to negotiations, being agreeable and cooperative is a good thing and being disagreeable and cold is a bad thing.

"But with negotiations we find that's not necessarily true," Fadel said in a statement. "The same thing goes for someone who is extroverted. It’s not always a good thing when you’re entering negotiations."

Fadel said the research shows that the key is having negotiators with matching personality traits. [See Related Story: Face It, Men's Looks Matter In Negotiation ]

"If you’re a jerk and I’m a jerk, then it might seem like we'll never get anywhere in negotiations, but it's actually more useful to put two similarly minded people together," Matta said.

For the study, researchers surveyed more than 200 individuals about their personalities and then randomly assigned them a role in a mock negotiation between two companies.

The participants negotiated against each other over issues related to human resource management and compensation. After an agreement was reached, the researchers surveyed participants about their perceptions of the process and their partner.  

The study's authors found that, although someone's personality didn't predict negotiating outcomes, the combination of personalities of both negotiators did lead to consistent results.

Specifically, Matta said the negotiations between participants with similar scores on agreeableness and extroversion tended to go more smoothly, finish quicker, and leave both parties with better impressions of the other than negotiations between participants with dissimilar personality scores.

Matta said the key takeaway is to not just consider who is conducting the negotiations on your behalf, but think about the negotiator on the other side and not always select negotiators who are well-liked and agreeable.

"It’s the combination of the two people that will determine how well the negotiations proceed," Matta said.

The study's authors acknowledge that matching personality traits is a significantly tougher task when the negotiations are taking place between external parties.

"[When negotiating with external parties] it may be more challenging to predict the personality of the potential negotiating partner," the study's authors wrote. "Thus, at least an understanding of the personality traits (and chiefly, the similarity or dissimilarity of traits) of employees who engage in negotiating for the organization may be a first step in creating awareness and expectations regarding future negotiation experiences and outcomes."

The study was co-authored by Kelly Schwind Wilson, an associate professor at Purdue University; D. Scott DeRue, a professor at the University of Michigan; Donald E. Conlon, a professor at Michigan State University; and Michael Howe, an assistant professor at Iowa State University.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.