How to negotiate with different kinds of people

Sometimes we walk into the centre of a negotiation and feel out-of-place. We introduce ourselves and search for something familiar to make the experience less tense. Maybe we whisper secrets to seek reassurance from our colleagues, anything to try and gain a foothold. The consensus of opinion is that we are trying to work out far too much out at once. Let us look at how to negotiate with different kinds of people and produce great outcomes.

Who are you dealing with?

There are so many different personalities around us. The smiling man, the cold fish, the gently spoken. To work from their perspective is almost like trying to unpick the largest tangle of fishing line. Consider the four types of personality we might come across.

How to negotiate with different kinds of people

The individualist

These personality types want to maximise the outcome for themselves. Individualists have scant concern for others. Typically, they are task focused and will position self-expression, individual thinking and personal choice in their discussion. Negotiators such as these will argue forcefully and occasionally even resort to threats. They will speak their mind with direct language. Deal with individualists in private and with assertiveness.

The Co-operators

Co-operators create value by working to ensure joint results are met. They like to represent a valued outcome for everyone. This is why they will take their time and ensure equality. Assertive, they stand up for needs, values and interests while honouring those of the other party. They value both the relationship and the substance.


Competitives pursue their own concerns and have little thought of a relationship. They will ask few questions and show little interest in listening to another’s position. Prepare yourself for a hard exchange. Don’t disregard this style as all-or-nothing. In some situations, when a deal is needed quickly and the terms are non-negotiable, this approach can be very effective in getting things done. However, there is little foundation of trust associated with the outcome.


Altruists are more focused on relationship gains, even when there is a conflict of interests. Often these styles conduct a friendly, open negotiation that strengthens the social aspect of the interaction. They tend to ask lots of questions and seek to understand the other person and their position. This is why negotiations can take longer with altruists. They smooth down tensions and minimise differences by building rapport, and by confirming repeatedly the opportunities of a long-term relationship.


Through this initial appraisal of the four styles comes an opportunity to enhance your confidence and ability to interact. Developing a natural rapport to uncover which style you are facing can initiate a far better understanding of desired outcomes. You can steer the negotiation to best suit the other person while ensuring that you don’t lose out.

Another advantage of knowing these styles is that you can be more flexible. Choosing to be more Competitive or less Altruistic can produce a better outcome. The art of how to negotiate with different kinds of people lies in quickly identifying negotiating styles.