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You hear about negotiators with real panache, the ones who have a style that leads to greater success. Well, it’s nice to have a single style, but it is even better to have several. Effective negotiators (the ones with real panache) choose their style to best fit the situation, thereby achieving their goals more often. When conducting training in conflict and negotiation skills, I frequently help people understand their dominant styles. I also help them improve their skills in alternative styles so that they will have the ability to select the appropriate one based on the nature of the negotiation. To understand style, I use several conflict assessments — generally composed of 15 to 20 statements with which the respondent either agrees or disagrees. The conflict assessments differentiate among five basic types of conflict styles: avoid, accommodate, compromise, compete and collaborate. The choice of a style is often based on a balance of the importance of the outcome and the importance of the relationship. There are no absolute right and wrong answers or styles; each has its time and place where it can be used optimally. Conversely, the use of a style inappropriate to the situation or overuse of one style can make the negotiation or relationship much more difficult. Avoid:If both the outcome and relationship are of relatively low importance, the avoid style may be appropriate. Avoidance might be postponing or withdrawing — both examples of unassertive behavior. It is a good strategy when time is needed to gather information or time is needed to cool down, the issue at hand is trivial or someone else should handle the situation. However, if you overuse avoidance, you might appear to others as indecisive or incompetent. Accommodate:Accommodators care more about the relationship than the outcome, essentially saying “I lose; you win.” By meeting the needs of others and not asserting their own, they often seek to be liked. It is a good style to select when harmony is important or competition would be unproductive. It is also a great tactic for building reciprocity points to collect later. However, a person with this style can be perceived as either weak or a martyr. Along with avoidance, it can leave you feeling taken advantage, particularly if you feel that you have given in against your own best interests. Compromise:Compromise leads to situations where both parties tend to win and lose. Through compromise, quick solutions can be reached. It is a good style when there is time pressure, when there are equally strong bargainers with mutually exclusive goals or when other methods haven’t worked. Users of this style appear decisive and problem focused. The risk is that issues may not be fully addressed and both parties can leave unclaimed value on the table. Compete:With competition, the outcome is more important than the relationship — “I win; you lose.” This is the style with which we are most familiar: getting the most for oneself, withholding information to influence the other party, inflating demands. At its worst, a person with a competitive style appears manipulative, inflexible, dominating and greedy. However, there are times when competition is the best course of action, particularly in emergencies, when speed is important, when you are (absolutely) right or when you need to protect yourself from being taken advantage of by another person who competes. The downside is relationships suffer, and you may miss important information that could help you do even better. Collaborate:This is the classic “win-win” style that places high value on the outcome and the relationship. It is assertive of your own needs while being cooperative about another’s needs. It tends to be “soft on the people and hard on the problem” by looking for interest-based solutions that rely on shared information. Because the parties truly buy in to them, the outcomes are stable in the long term. People who are collaborative are often regarded as fair and thoughtful. The downside of collaboration is that it takes time, and if overused, people can feel they never make their own decisions or that someone is wishy-washy. So, juris doctor, do a little diagnosis. Diagnose your main style and build your skills at using all five in the appropriate situations. Then when you enter a negotiation or simple interaction, diagnose the situation and the style of your counterpart and then use the most effective style. Pretty soon you will be the lawyer with panache everyone is talking about. William DeVane Logueis a mediator in West Hartford, Conn. This article was originally published inThe Connecticut Law Tribune, aRe-corder affiliate.Practice Center articlesinform readers on developments in substantive law, practice issues or law firm management. Contact Associate Editor Candice McFarland with submissions or questions at [email protected]or go to www.therecorder.com/submissions.html.

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