Social Styles: Understanding How They Impact Negotiations

The way we negotiate is influenced by our social styles, which are a reflection of our personality traits and behaviors. When you understand the social style model, you can gain a competitive advantage in negotiations.

This post will explore the social style model and explain what each social style represents. By understanding the social styles framework, you can negotiate with greater self-awareness and achieve greater interpersonal effectiveness.

What Is The Social Style Model?

David Merrill and Roger Reid introduced the concept of social styles in the 1980s. They identified four basic styles of communication: Driver, Expressive, Amiable, and Analytical.

Each style has its strengths and weaknesses, and it is essential to understand them before entering any negotiation.


The Driver style is characterized by individuals who are direct, assertive, and decisive. They are focused on achieving their objectives and are not afraid to take risks.

They tend to be good at making decisions quickly and can push for results. In negotiation, the driver style can be effective in achieving a quick resolution by outlining specific demands and expectations.

However, they can also come across as aggressive and confrontational, which can lead to an impasse.


The Expressive style is characterized by individuals who are enthusiastic, creative, and spontaneous.

They have strong people skills and are natural influencers. They tend to be good at storytelling, playing to emotions, and creating an engaged audience. In negotiation, the expressive style can be effective in building rapport and establishing a relationship.

They can make negotiations exciting and engaging by adding stories, humor, and anecdotes to the conversation. However, they can be unpredictable, which can make it challenging to establish common ground.


The Amiable style is characterized by individuals who are diplomatic, cooperative, and supportive. They prioritize building relationships and achieving harmony.

They tend to be good at finding common ground and are sensitive to the needs of others. In negotiation, amiable style people can be effective in finding win-win solutions and building long-term relationships.

They can make negotiations smoother by avoiding conflict, seeking agreement, and being easy to work with. However, they can also be indecisive, which can lead to a lack of progress.


The Analytical style is characterized by individuals who are logical, methodical, and detail-oriented. They are focused on facts and figures and tend to keep emotions out of the negotiation.

They tend to be good at spotting inconsistencies and errors and can think strategically about the long term. In negotiation, the analytical style can be effective in identifying and exploring all possible options.

They tend to be good at developing complex formulas, cost-benefit scenarios, and other data-driven approaches. However, they can be too rigid and inflexible, which can make negotiations tedious and time-consuming.

Using Social Styles in Negotiations

It is important to note that everyone has a dominant social style, but it is possible to use multiple styles in a negotiation to achieve the desired outcome.

The best negotiators can adapt to the style of the other person and use a wide range of tactics to achieve their objectives. For instance, a driver-style negotiator can benefit from using empathy and active listening to build rapport with an amiable-style negotiator.

Similarly, an analytical-style negotiator can make progress by summarizing and clarifying what expressive-style negotiators are saying.

To use social styles effectively, it is important to know the strategies and tactics that work best for each style. Here are some tips for using social styles in negotiation:

For the Driver-style negotiator:

  • Focus on results and be willing to take risks.
  • Use direct, assertive, and confident language and body language.
  • Be prepared to make quick decisions.
  • Avoid excessive confrontation, which can lead to an impasse.

For the Expressive-style negotiator:

  • Focus on building relationships and establishing rapport.
  • Use storytelling, humor, and anecdotes to engage the other party.
  • Be creative and spontaneous in your approach.
  • Avoid being unpredictable, which can make it challenging to reach an agreement.

For the Amiable-style negotiator:

  • Focus on finding common ground and building a relationship.
  • Use diplomacy and cooperative language.
  • Be mindful of the needs of the other party, and seek agreement.
  • Avoid being too passive, which can lead to a lack of progress.

For the Analytical-style negotiator:

  • Focus on data-driven evidence and objective facts.
  • Use detail-oriented and strategic thinking.
  • Be prepared to develop complex formulas and cost-benefit scenarios.
  • Avoid being too rigid or inflexible, which can make negotiations tedious.

All four social styles can benefit from these general strategies:

  • Practice active listening and pay attention to nonverbal cues.
  • Use empathy and emotional intelligence to understand the other person’s perspective.
  • Be prepared to compromise and find creative solutions.
  • Be aware of your own biases and adjust your approach as needed.

Final Thoughts

Social styles are an important factor in negotiation and understanding and using them effectively can significantly improve your chances of achieving a favorable outcome.

By adapting your approach to match the social style of the other party, you can build rapport, establish common ground, and find creative solutions that benefit both parties.

Effective negotiation requires active listening, empathy, and the ability to adjust your approach based on the situation. By utilizing social styles and employing the appropriate tactics, a negotiator can achieve their goals and build positive relationships.

One key aspect of utilizing social styles effectively in negotiation is being able to recognize the styles of others. There are various ways to identify someone’s social style, including observing their body language, communication style, and priorities.

For example, a driver-style negotiator might be confident, firm, and focused on results, while an analytical-style negotiator might be methodical, detail-oriented, and focused on data-driven evidence.

Once you have identified the other party’s social style, you can adapt your approach to match theirs. For example, if you are negotiating with an expressive style negotiator, you might want to use humor or anecdotes to engage and connect with them.

On the other hand, if you are negotiating with an analytical style negotiator, you might want to focus on presenting data-backed evidence and logical arguments.

It is also important to note that social styles are not fixed personality traits. People can and will adapt their social style depending on the situation.

For example, a driver-style negotiator might adjust their approach to be more amiable when dealing with a sensitive issue, or an analytical-style negotiator might use an expressive approach to engage a particularly resistant negotiator.

To be an effective negotiator, it is essential to develop an understanding of your own social style and strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your own style will not only help you better adapt to other styles but also allow you to use your strengths to your advantage.

For example, if you know you are an expressive style negotiator, you could use your natural storytelling abilities and charisma to build rapport and gain the upper hand.

Ultimately, the key to effective negotiation is understanding and utilizing social styles to create a positive outcome for all parties involved. By identifying the styles of other negotiators, adapting your approach, and leveraging your own strengths and weaknesses, you can improve your negotiation skills and achieve your goals.

Remember that negotiation is a collaborative process, and by working together, everyone can walk away feeling satisfied with the outcome.

If you want to learn more about negotiation, mediation, and alternative dispute resolutions, contact ADR Times for resources and informative courses.


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