Communication Style in Negotiations: Tough or Nice?

Negotiating and Bargaining
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Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Communication Style in Negotiations: Tough or Nice?

When bargaining or entering into a business negotiation, you have the choice between various styles. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument in fact distinguishes among 5 negotiating styles.
But let's keep it simple for now: One key practical choice is being "warm and friendly" or being "tough and firm". Little is known so far about which of these 2 communication styles works best. Not to mention the use of good guy plus bad guy combinations.
Which one of the two communication styles in negotiation do you think is better from an economic point of view: Nice or Tough; should you exude warmth or toughness?

A recent series of experiments on distributive negotiations, where claiming value is the goal of each of the parties at the table, conducted by Jeong er al., shows that:
  1. Communication style does influence negotiation results.
  2. Many people believe that enacting warmth is helpful in a negotiation. They do so by increasing their politeness, which causes them to be perceived by their counterparts as having lower dominance.
  3. A warm and friendly communication style results in lower economic outcomes compared with a tough and firm communication style. The researchers believe this caused by the fact that offers delivered in tough and firm language elicited more favorable counteroffers.
Remarkably the counterparts (opponents) of the warm + friendly versus the tough + firm negotiators did not report different levels of satisfaction or enjoyment of their interactions.

⇨ Let's collect observations and practical experiences regarding being a "nice guy" or "bad guy" in negotiation processes below.

Source: Martha Jeong, Julia Minson, Michael Yeomans and Francesca Ginoa, "Communicating with Warmth in Distributive Negotiations Is Surprisingly Counterproductive", Management Science, Articles in Advance, pp. 1–25.


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