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like parents or one’s boss, we often use a passive style. With siblings and rivals, we might become quickly aggressive. These are examples of normal human behaviour, but in negotiations, it is better to use an assertive style, as it will increase one’s ability to negotiate a successful business outcome.

During a negotiation, passive style communicators can confuse and anger their counterparts easily, even though the individual attempting to be passive is actually attempting to avoid confrontation and conflict. This failure is because passive communicators are inclined to speak using ambiguous (e.g., unclear) language. Moreover, their body language and facial expressions show that they have adopted the behaviour of an inferior. This makes their counterparts believe that the passive communicator will give in to any demands quickly and easily. In contrast, the ambiguous language the passive communicator uses means that the counterpart feels that s/he is not receiving straight, honest answers or information, and therefore grows increasingly frustrated and angry. Little, if nothing, is achieved. The opposite is the case with an aggressive communicator, who invariably takes a ‘my way or the highway’, confrontational approach to one’s counterpart. The language and behaviour of such a negotiator not only tends to alienate their counterpart, but can even lead to the complete breakdown and failure of a negotiation. Furthermore, aggressive communication in the negotiation room is bad advertising for one’s company and one’s self as a professional. Such behaviour - and a reputation for it - can drive potential customers and business partners away.

In contrast, assertive communicators exude confidence with a style and grace that shows consideration and respect for one’s company, for one’s self and for one’s counterpart and their company. Such communicators use a strong, stable tone of voice, expressing themselves clearly to avoid misunderstandings, while avoiding making overemotional or hypercritical comments. Instead, assertive communicators will present their views, wants and goals clearly, without focusing on what their counterpart is not doing to their own satisfaction. The assertive communicator looks for the good in the other side, in the business prospects at hand and in potential opportunities in the post-contractual future.

Profile for Prominence Project

1.8 Negotiations and relationships (chapter)  

1.8 Negotiations and relationships (chapter)