Have you ever noticed that some negotiations seem really easy, while others leave you stressed out and exhausted? After my first "real" negotiation as an adult (leasing a car; it was awful), I decided that the concept of negotiation was simply a horrible thing I'd have to live through occasionally.

Until, of course, I encountered a few workplace negotiations that were downright friendly and, dare I say, easy. 

How could this be? It turns out that our personalities have a major effect on the way we negotiate and on the types of negotiations in which we excel. Understanding where you fall on the negotiations personality spectrum can help you to capitalize on your strengths and make up for your weaknesses.

Once you've mastered the art, your negotiations will go from painful to tolerable -- if not great.

So, what's your negotiating personality? Read on for three archetypal negotiating styles, derived from a major review study of research on negotiating and personality.

The carer 

  • Excels in: Building long-term relationships
  • Weakness: Maximizing short-term economic gains

Carers, as I call them, have high emotional intelligence and tend to be extroverted and trusting. They are, in other words, people persons. 

These are not the people who will excel in a car dealership (cough, cough), and the economic outcomes they generate in a particular negotiation tend to be lower. Thus, carers need to be careful to do their research and keep a very firm grasp on the economics of a situation if they're going to avoid losing out to a more competitive counter-party.

On the other hand, if you have a new client relationship you want to nurture or a business partnership you want to forge, you'll want to bring a carer along. These negotiators excel at building relationships and finding creative non-economic solutions to meet everyone's needs. As a result, their negotiating performance over time can be truly exceptional, as they are great at building economic value through the strength of their relationships.

The competitor 

  • Excels in: Maximizing short-term economic gains
  • Weakness: Relationship-building

The competitor is less trusting and less agreeable and can be less extroverted than the carer. These are the negotiators who make car dealers feel bad about themselves -- they're tough and able to get the most out of a deal. 

Their specialty is the one-off deal or transaction-based negotiations. If ever there is a situation calling for cost-minimization or maximum gains, the competitor is the person for the job. Whether it's organizing a deal with a widget supplier to negotiating the lease for new office space, you will be really glad to have a competitor in your corner. 

Of course, being focused on today's outcome can also be a negative, especially if you're looking to include non-financial factors into your negotiation or if you want to build a long-term relationship filled with goodwill. In these situations, the competitor has to be careful not to let those competitive instincts take over. Sometimes it's worth it to give more than you get. 

The collaborator 

  • Excels in: Both relationship-building and economic gains
  • Potential weakness: Applying the right strategy to each negotiation

The collaborator is friendly but also has a strong sense of control, confidence, and creativity. These negotiators fall in between the carers and the competitors on the negotiations spectrum, able to make all parties feel good about the negotiation without sacrificing economic value. 

By leveraging their friendliness and creativity, collaborators can come up with novel solutions to thorny negotiating problems -- for example, suggesting a delivery schedule that helps a supplier service other clients, or finding creative perks to compensate a consultant for their work. The collaborator's skill is at making all people feel like they've gained -- which is great both for short-term and long-term relationships. 

On the other hand, collaborators remain aware of the bottom line. Whether it's through research, nerves of steel, simple assertiveness, or a combination of all of these factors, collaborators won't come to the negotiating table without a clear picture of what they want. This approach makes them good at ensuring that the gains from a negotiation make sense today and tomorrow.

One possible weakness of the collaborator is in knowing which techniques are most applicable to a particular situation. After all, if you can essentially do it all, you need to be very careful to do the right thing at the right time. Studying different negotiations will help collaborators learn the right strategy for each interaction, making the most of their broad skill set.

No matter what your personality, keep on learning
Regardless of your innate style, you can learn a lot from people who negotiate differently from you -- especially if you can enlist their help with a negotiation that doesn't feel like a strong fit for your personality. Look to others for advice, moral support, or a tip or two, and you might find that you'll become a much more flexible negotiator than you think!