Measurable Traits of an Affective Persuader

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“People with higher EQ are more likely to induce positive mood states in their negotiation counterparts.”

Measurable Traits of an Affective PersuaderMany studies and reports have been done on what personality traits are found in super sales people and negotiators. The advice those studies offer is often difficult to apply, for three reasons. First, there are just too many contextual specificities underpinning each negotiation, such that one size does not fit all. Second, the effectiveness of each strategy is partly dependent on the personal background of the persuaders (i.e., sales or negotiation) — who they are, what they want, and how they connect. Third, many of the factors determining the outcome of negotiations are more emotional than rational, which requires a deep psychological understanding of the people involved.

Personality research provides valuable lessons in predicting an individual’s ability to negotiate effectively. One very important measurable trait that correlates with improving an individual’s negotiation abilities is emotional intelligence (EQ). Despite EQ’s relatively recent appearance in the realm of personality traits, a Google Scholar keyword search produces an astonishing 131,000 hits on “EQ and negotiation.” Most of these articles highlight the beneficial aspects of EQ vis-à-vis negotiation. For instance, a study by Wharton and MIT professors shows that people with higher EQ are more likely to induce positive mood states in their negotiation counterparts and leave them more satisfied with the outcome of the negotiation. The study further states that “EQ also translates into higher levels of satisfaction with one’s own negotiation outcome, regardless of the objective result.” Even more important, EQ is linked to higher levels of self-control and likability, no doubt a powerful combination when it comes to engaging with others in emotionally taxing situations. People with higher EQ also tend to be more self-aware, so they are better able to understand how other people perceive them in their role as negotiator.

Another trait that has shown a strong association with negotiation potential is the cognitive ability (aka.IQ). While one would obviously expect IQ to boost negotiation performance, the research also revealed a more surprising finding: People with higher IQs tend to approach negotiations in a more cooperative or collaborative way, treating their negotiation counterpart as a partner and embracing win-win strategies. However, this depends on the strategy behind the negotiation. Sometimes, a win-win is not good enough for either egos or negotiation goals.

One of the strongest personality drivers of negotiation potential is self-monitoring, defined as the tendency to examine one’s behaviors and the perceived impressions we make on others. This allows negotiators (sales professionals) to modify their tactics or strategies depending on feedback from the other side of the discussion.

Studies also show that some traits can be counterproductive to negotiations. Self-centered, narcissistic individuals who believe they can “just be themselves” and disregard other people’s views of them are often celebrated in the Western world for their confidence and self-belief. However, the reality is that those individuals will miss out on important social clues, negative feedback, and the ability to connect with others. All of this will handicap them during negotiations. (Can we say “POTUS?”). Another negative personality trait is Neuroticism.

Neuroticism, which concerns lower emotional stability and lowers EQ, which can call up ineffective negotiation strategies, such as an excessive tendency to bargain, complain, and antagonize counterparts. However, manipulative “Machiavellianism,” is seen by some as “a dark-side personality trait” uses skillful insights to manipulate and exploit others and behave in risky and anti-social tactics.

Soft, Hard and Manipulative Sales Tactics

Sales organizations usually subscribe to a “soft” or a “hard” sell or leave it up to the objective results of each individual sales pro (closing rate or revenue production). However, according to some correlations done with personality traits and “negotiating success” could help fit into either the soft or hard sale camps. Just listen to a sales call when a sales manager and the on-site sales person are strategizing on how best to close the sale. When neither soft or hard tactics seem to be working, more often than not, Machiavellian tactics can come into play. However, once again, the best tactics to use can depend on many subtle factors, and that is where both EQ and IQ can come into play. Woven into the sales context are other very personal characteristics such as personal ethics and values, some of which are subject to flexibility depending mainly on the reward and what it means to the sales person or negotiator.

In summary, our personalities affect how we negotiate. However, negotiations (and sales) can make use of certain tactics and strategies to achieve desired results. However, mixed in the selection of what strategy of tactics to follow are the prickly issues of personal values and ethics. Unfortunately, as was stated at the beginning of the article, negotiations can be made up of complex issues and personalities. While each of us has some core personality traits, we can test and measure for certain core traits such as EQ and IQ but being able to leverage those traits usually requires training and experience to properly channel those traits to become a great persuader.


Additional Reading

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Survey of top leadership Skills – Reading Between the Lines

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