Ten Personality Traits of Top Negotiators

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A handful of personal characteristics and social attributes contribute to successful negotiations. Nobody has all the traits of a world-class negotiator, but these skills are worth developing if you hope to improve your negotiation skills and your life.

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  • Empathy is the ability to participate in another's feelings or ideas, to put yourself in someone else's shoes. It's the bedrock of successful communication and a necessary trait for great negotiators. Being empathetic helps you recognize the differences between you and other people, allowing you to maintain your identity as you experience the views and emotions of others. You can improve your empathetic responses by acknowledging the behaviors, values, and goals that others may have.

  • Respect closely follows empathy. In order to respect other people and the limits they set, you must first have respect for yourself and the limits you set. Respect tends to be reciprocal in negotiations: If you give it, you're much more likely to get it back.

  • Integrity includes honesty and trustworthiness — qualities necessary for others to trust you in a negotiation. You can hone your integrity by following rules, keeping agreements (without reminders), and being steadfastly honest. Not replying to a certain question or divulging certain information is acceptable; lying is not.

  • Fairness is another trait based on empathy. You must believe that the needs and wants of other people are just as worthwhile as your own. To develop fairness, consider your goals and those of the other party. Identify areas of agreement and areas that need compromise. Being fair ensures that a deal closes or ends with satisfaction for all parties.

  • Patience is the act of bearing pains or trials without complaint. Tolerating frustration and adversity on the way to reaching your goals — and not giving up — is a way to demonstrate patience. All successful people know that being refused, delayed, and blocked is part of life's journeys. Success comes to those who are steadfast and patient.

  • Responsibility is the ability to demonstrate reliability and accept consequences. Being responsible doesn't mean that you won't make mistakes, but it does mean that you'll correct them to the extent possible. Improve your skills in this area by taking care of the problems — the little ones and the big ones, too — for which you're responsible.

  • Flexibility is the ability to deal with new situations and unexpected obstacles. If one approach doesn't work, you try another. Flexibility is at the heart of closing a deal in a way that satisfies each side and works in the real world.

  • Sense of humor is the ability to see, appreciate, or express an amusing aspect of various situations. Finding humor in adversity helps you get on with finding solutions rather than getting stuck in the blame game. A prerequisite for a good sense of humor is self-respect and flexibility.

  • Self-discipline is the ability to complete tasks and reach goals without someone else needing to direct or motivate you. Internal forces drive you toward your goals, and your rewards come from within rather than from other people.

  • Stamina is the ability to keep going when others drop by the wayside. Stamina is an attribute of all great negotiators. After all, you can't win the game if you don't have the stamina to keep playing.


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