Decoding Personalities: Your Secret Weapon in Effective Communication and Negotiation

In the high-stakes game of negotiation, success often hinges on more than just facts and figures. The secret ingredient that often sets apart successful negotiators? A deep understanding of the personality of the person on the other side of the table. 

Whether it’s closing a business deal, brokering a peace agreement, or navigating a complex dispute, the ability to read people and adapt your negotiation strategy accordingly can be a game-changer. This article unveils the art and science of using personality insights to supercharge your communication, negotiation, and deal-making skills.

For all of the following reasons, understanding the other person’s personality is critical in communication, negotiation, and deal making:

Pay Attention To:

Tailoring Communication Style: People with different personality types perceive, process, and communicate information differently. For instance, some people are visual learners, while others prefer auditory or kinesthetic learning. Understanding their personality can help tailor your communication style to suit their needs. This ensures that your message is clearly understood and has the desired impact.

Establishing Rapport: People are more likely to engage positively with those they feel understand them and with whom they feel comfortable. By understanding their personality, you can mirror their communication style, establish rapport, build trust and mutual understanding. This is a key aspect of successful negotiation and deal making.

Predicting and Influencing Behavior: Understanding personality can give you insights into a person’s likely behavior, how they make decisions, what motivates them, and what they value most. For instance, someone who is more extraverted might prefer direct and assertive negotiation, while someone who is more introverted might prefer a more thoughtful, analytical approach. By knowing this, you can better predict their reactions, tailor your negotiation strategies, and influence their behavior to achieve a favorable outcome.

Conflict Resolution: Every negotiation or deal could potentially involve conflicts. People with different personality types deal with conflict differently – some may avoid it, others may confront it directly, while some may seek compromise. By understanding their personality, you can navigate conflict more effectively, minimizing damage to the relationship and keeping discussions constructive.

Empathy and Understanding: In the process of communication and negotiation, empathy plays a crucial role. If you understand someone’s personality, you can empathize better with their viewpoint. This can help to create a positive environment for negotiation, where both parties feel understood and respected.

Strategic Decision-Making: When you understand someone’s personality, you can anticipate how they might react to different deal terms and negotiation strategies. This allows you to make more strategic decisions in structuring the deal, presenting your offer, and moving the negotiation forward.

So what do you think so far? Am I making sense?

Understanding the personality of your negotiation counterpart involves keen observation, active listening, and strategic questioning. Here are some ways to go about it:


Focus on and pay attention to the following aspects of their behavior:

Communication Style: Are they direct and assertive or more indirect and diplomatic? Do they prefer detailed discussions or broader, big-picture conversations?

If the person is direct and assertive, they likely value transparency and decisiveness. With such individuals, being clear, concise, and upfront about your intentions and offers can help build trust. Conversely, if they are indirect and diplomatic, they may appreciate a softer approach that focuses on relationship-building. For example, you could introduce your proposals in a way that highlights mutual benefits and avoids confrontation.

Decision-Making: Do they make decisions quickly, or do they take their time and analyze all the information before deciding?

A person who makes quick decisions might appreciate a negotiation style that is fast-paced and to the point. In this case, summarizing key points and providing clear, straightforward options can be effective. However, someone who prefers to analyze before deciding will likely appreciate having detailed information and time to consider their options. With such individuals, patience and thoroughness are key. You could provide comprehensive data, respect their need for time, and be open to multiple discussion sessions.

Reaction to Conflict: Do they avoid conflict, confront it directly, or look for a compromise?

If someone tends to avoid conflict, pushing too hard or being too assertive could backfire. Instead, focus on areas of agreement and propose solutions that avoid direct confrontation. Conversely, if they confront conflict directly, they might appreciate an open discussion of disagreements. For those who seek compromise, emphasize finding win-win solutions. In all cases, being respectful and considerate of their comfort level with conflict can help maintain a positive negotiation climate.

Body Language: Do they use a lot of gestures, maintain eye contact, or cross their arms over their chest? These nonverbal cues can tell you a lot about their comfort level, openness, and attitudes.

If someone maintains eye contact, sits in an open posture, or uses expressive gestures, they may be open, engaged, and comfortable in the negotiation. You can match their level of expressiveness to build rapport. If they cross their arms, avoid eye contact, or exhibit other closed-off body language, they might be uncomfortable or defensive. In such cases, you may need to work on building trust, perhaps by reiterating common goals or expressing empathy.

Active Listening

Listen carefully to what they say, and also how they say it.

Values and Motivations: What seems to matter most to them? What are their interests, and what motivates them?

Understanding what matters most to your counterpart enables you to frame your proposals in a way that appeals to these interests. For instance, if they value long-term relationships, you could highlight the ways your proposal strengthens that relationship. If they’re motivated by financial factors, demonstrating the monetary value or cost-effectiveness of your proposal would be beneficial.

Emotional Responses: How do they react emotionally to different situations? Are they generally calm, or do they get emotional easily?

If someone gets emotional easily, keeping the negotiation atmosphere calm and collected can prevent unnecessary escalations. Techniques like using neutral language, pausing to allow tension to diffuse, and acknowledging emotions can be helpful. If they generally remain calm, they might appreciate a rational, fact-based approach.

Strategic Questions

Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to reveal more about their personality. Here are some examples:

“Can you tell me about a time when you faced a tough negotiation, and how you handled it?” This can give you insights into their negotiation style and how they handle conflict.

“What’s the most important thing for you in this deal?” This can reveal what they value most.

“What’s your decision-making process in situations like these?” This can tell you how they make decisions.

“How would you like to see this negotiation process unfold?” Their answer could reveal their preferred negotiation pace and style.

Remember, the goal in asking questions is not to manipulate, but to gain a deeper understanding of your counterpart to foster a more effective, efficient, and respectful negotiation process. Treat the answers and all your findings as hypotheses and be open to adjusting them as you learn more about the other person.


In the world of negotiation, understanding the diverse spectrum of human personalities isn’t just an optional skill—it’s a necessary one. As we’ve discovered, the key to becoming a successful communicator and negotiator lies in our ability to decode and respond to the various personalities we encounter. This art, when mastered, can be your golden ticket to more productive discussions, impactful relationships, and successful deal-making. 

Now, it’s over to you. How will you use these insights to shape your negotiation strategies? Will you become a keen observer, a strategic questioner, or an empathetic listener?

The challenge—and the opportunity—lies in your hands. 

Remember, every conversation, every negotiation, and every deal is an opportunity to learn, grow, and fine-tune your approach. So, take the leap, use these insights, and transform your negotiation game. The power of understanding personalities is immense—tap into it, and the benefits can be substantial and far-reaching.

Mitch Jackson, Esq.
Author of “The Mediator’s Handbook: Turning Conflict into Collaboration”


Author: Mitch Jackson

I'm a California trial lawyer trying to fix the world one client, cause, and digital interaction at a time.

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