JeanneLeeAre you dreading a meeting in the near future which will require negotiating on behalf of your team? Or yourself? Would you like to be empowered in both of these situations?
If you answered yes to either or both of these questions, then empowerment will require at least a four step process. First, you must understand your communication style and the communication style of others at the table. Second, you will want to keep track of which of five possible quadrants you are negotiating from (I win, you lose; you win, I lose; we each win and each lose a little; we both lose; and we both win). Third, you must be aware of basic mediation techniques to reduce any tensions that may arise and to keep in mind how the negotiations will impact all parties. And finally, you must prepare your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and understand the BATNA of the other party. As a woman negotiator, you have to be aware of cultural biases in each of these steps.
In this article, we will focus on the first step: understanding your own communication style and the style of the others at the table. By understanding the various communication styles, you will maximize the potential for positive outcomes.
The Personal Coaching Styles Inventory (PCSI) developed by CoachWorks International identifies four communication styles: director, sales, mediator and strategist. The Director wastes very little time and is very bottom-line oriented. You will not find her at the break-out room very often and when you speak to her, you have to be brief and speak to the bottom line of the subject matter. As a good friend of mine says, “Be brief, be bright and be gone. “ They have a tone and pace that is quicker than average. Because they are results oriented, they are natural leaders, but people experience them as being rather abrupt and working with them as stressful.
The Mediator is the person in the office to whom everyone likes to take their problems. She is a seasoned listener (chances are she grew up developing this skill in her family), wants to include everyone in a discussion and wants everyone to feel that they have had equal talk time. She is personable, but avoids becoming the center of attention. Her focus is on making others feel comfortable.
Unlike the Mediator, the Presenter loves being the center of attention. They are the life of a party, are great conversationalists, energetic, and entertaining. However, they may need prompting to stay on task.
The Strategist style is easy to spot. She is the one you can count on to provide data – lots of it- and with great frequency. All of it has been methodically and precisely assembled.  Strategists are hard-working and extremely thorough in their work. Some might call them perfectionists.
Experienced communicators will move easily though all four styles, but when under stress (as usually happens during negotiations) will default to their primary style.
Understanding your style and those at the bargaining table is critical for building rapport. For example, a Director has a fast- paced speaking, thinking, and action style. A Strategist has a naturally slower, more methodical pace, and may not feel she has been heard because of the rapid-fire pace of conversation. However, if the Director correctly identifies the negotiator on the other side as a Strategist, she can slow the pace of her speech and actions to better match the needs of the Strategist. Conversely, the Strategist, realizing she is dealing with a Director, can deliberately accelerate her own speech and actions. This moving away from one’s natural communication style in order to better adapt during a negotiation takes self-awareness, concentration, and a focus on the other person’s style.  These factors will enable negotiations to run more smoothly and with less stress.
Each style has its strengths and liabilities. But by being aware of the strengths and liabilities of your own style and each of the other three, you can minimize friction, misunderstandings, and greatly increase the ability to build rapport and mutual trust.
If you are interested in learning more about the four communication styles as well as four other steps involved in negotiations, with a particular emphasis placed on the challenges women face during negotiations, come to the Negotiating Skills for Women class offered at Colorado Free University.
Jeanne R. Lee is an attorney and trained executive coach. She is a national speaker on Strategic Networking for the Introvert, Negotiating Skills for Women, World Class Speaking Secrets and Business Development Skills for Lawyers. She can be reached at