Determining Your Counterpart’s Negotiation Style

Now that you have a general understanding of the different styles counterparts may use when negotiating, you may be wondering how to identify your counterpart’s specific style. There are three main ways: (1) general observation, (2) listening and (3) asking questions.

General Observation

You will get your first clues about your counterpart’s style through general observation. When you walk into your counterpart’s office, look around. The types of things that are displayed on the walls or desk can provide insight into what your counterpart feels is important. Are family pictures or company photos displayed, indicating that relationships are important? If so, you may be negotiating with an Amiable or a Blend. Are the walls covered with plaques and certificates noting achievements and displaying a pride in accomplishment? This may indicate that your counterpart is a Driver. Is the office neat and organized, or are stacks of files and papers lying around? The neater and more organized the office is, the greater the likelihood that you are negotiating with an Analytical. It is important to note that you cannot determine your counterpart’s style by observation alone, but you can certainly gain some initial insights.


A second tool for helping you identify your counterpart’s style is listening. For example, an employee meets with her company’s management team and says she would like to retire within one year. The manager who is a Driver asks, “What is the exact date you would like to retire?” Another manager, an Amiable, asks, “Is there anything we can do to create an environment that would make you want to stay longer?” A third manager, who is a Blend, comments, “Great! Another reason to bring the team together for a happy hour!” And a fourth manager, an Analytical, states, “For the next year, we would like you to write down in detail what you do on a daily basis so we will have a step-by-step manual to train your replacement.”

Asking Questions

A third way to determine your counterpart’s behavioral style is by asking questions and listening carefully to the responses. For example, to determine if your counterpart is a Driver or an Analytical, you could ask, “We have a 60-page document that supports our position. Would you like me to review the complete document with you, or would you like to see the two-page summary?” An Analytical will almost always want to review the entire document, while a Driver will usually want to see the two-page summary. Other good questions to help you determine your counterpart’s style might be, “How are you doing today?” or “How was your weekend?” In response, Amiables will typically give a lot of information, much of it personal. In fact, Amiables will often provide far more information than Drivers or Analyticals want to know! Drivers responding to the same type of questions will simply respond, “Fine,” and quickly switch the topic to the business at hand.

Applying Your Knowledge of Behavioral Styles

The ability to identify, understand and respect your counterpart’s negotiating styles–and adapt your style accordingly–can help you build productive relationships that lead to win-win outcomes. Remembering the Ultimate Rule of Negotiation, “Do unto others as they want to be done unto,” will serve you well in every negotiation you enter.

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