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Manual > 3 - Negotiation > Competitive & Integrative

Competitive & Integrative

Distinguish Strategic Approach from Personality

While there may be some correlation between negotiation approaches and personality style, the two do not necessarily go together. For example, a competitive negotiator may be very "pleasant" to work with in terms of demeanor, but utilize extremely competitive tactics. In fact, a negotiator's pleasantries may themselves be part of an overall manipulative approach! A problem-solving negotiator may, on the other hand, be rather ornery in terms of their personality, yet effectively utilize interest-based, problem-solving strategies in negotiation.

The Best Negotiators Will Have Both Sets of Skills

It is also important to appreciate that the most effective negotiators will have a wide array of negotiation skills, both competitive and problem-solving, and will effectively mix and match these approaches depending upon what the negotiator believes will work best with a particular "negotiating partner" depending on the specific issue being negotiated and depending on the nature of the overall negotiating relationship (one-time transaction or continuing relations).  

Strategies to Create Value and Claim Value

Another view of negotiation is that certain strategies and behaviors are intended to "create value" (integrative approaches) whereas other strategies and behaviors are intended to "claim value" (be that by competition or principle). The mediator will want to first assist participants to create maximum value for exchange, then help the participants to figure out how to best divide that maximized value.

Dispute Negotiation and Transactional Negotiation

Also notice that negotiations may be divided into two types:

  • dispute negotiation, focused on resolving past facts; and
  • transaction negotiation, focused on reaching agreement for the future.

While it is often helpful to appreciate this difference between dispute negotiation and transaction negotiation, it is also beneficial to appreciate that many negotiation situations involve the resolution of both past issues as well as planning future relations.

The Competitive Approach

Competitive negotiation strategy is, essentially, a manipulative approach designed to intimidate the other party to lose confidence in their own case and to accept the competitor's demands. This approach is characterized by the following:

  • High opening demands;
  • Threats, Tension and Pressure;
  • Stretching the facts;
  • Sticking to positions;
  • Being tight lipped;
  • Want to outdo, outmaneuver the other side; and
  • Want clear victory.

When a competitive negotiator is asked how they will know that they have reached a good agreement, they may reply that the agreement is "better than fair."

Assumptions of the Competitive Approach

There are certain assumptions, a world view really, that lie behind the competitive approach to negotiation. This "distributive" world view includes the following assumptions:

  • Negotiation is the division of limited resources;
  • One side's gain is the other's side's loss; and
  • A deal today will not materially affect choices available tomorrow.

Risks of the Competitive Approach

While competitive negotiation tactics are often effective in "claiming" already defined value, there are also certain risks to competitive negotiation. Foremost among these risks are damage to the negotiating relationship and a lessened overall likelihood of reaching agreement. Here is a list of the disadvantages of the competitive style:

  • Confrontation leads to rigidity;
  • There is limited analysis of merits of dispute and relevant criteria for resolving issues;There is limited development of solution alternatives;
  • It is hard to predict the outcome of the competitive approach or control the process;
  • Competitors are generally blind to joint gains;
  • Competitors threaten their future relations; and
  • Competitors are more likely to have impasse and increased costs.

The Integrative Approach

The integrative, collaborative or problem-solving approach to negotiation has been described as "enlightened self-interest," rather than the "egocentric variety." This approach consists of joint problem-solving, where gains are not necessarily viewed as at the expense of the other party.

Assumptions of the Integrative Approach

As one might expect, there is a different world view behind the integrative approach to negotiation. The primary assumptions of the integrative approach are the following:

  • Some common interests exist between parties;
  • Negotiation is benefitted by a full discussion of each participant's perspective and interests; and
  • We live in an integrated and complex world and our problems can be best resolved through application of our best intelligence and creativity.

Risks of the Integrative Approach

Risks of the integrative approach are based upon the common sense observation that "it takes two to collaborate." If one party is unwilling to participate in integrative, problem solving negotiation, the more collaborative negotiator may put themself at risk in the following ways:

  • The negotiator will be forced to either "give in" or adopt a competitive stance;
  • The negotiator may see themself as a failure if they do not reach agreement; and
  • The negotiator lays themself open by honestly disclosing information that is not reciprocated.


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