Richard Shell1 identified five styles of negotiation which are closely based on the Thomas-Kilmann conflict model. This in turn was based on the Blake and Mouton managerial grid. Not only does this highlight the importance of negotiation in conflict management but it also shows that anyone’s innate characteristics show themselves in different ways in different contexts.

Shell’s interpretation of the five styles is:

  • Accommodating
  • This style indicates that someone is keen to solve the other party’s problem and preserve the personal relationship. However, if the other party does not reciprocate then they can feel taken advantage of.

  • Avoiding
  • Some people simply don’t like to negotiate until absolutely necessary. They will typically dodge the confrontation aspects of a negotiation, which may be interpreted as tactful and diplomatic.

  • Collaborating
  • Someone who enjoys negotiating and solving problems is said to be collaborating. The danger is that this enthusiasm can lead to simple problems being made complex.

  • Competing
  • A naturally competitive person will enjoy a negotiation because it is an opportunity to win (in the context of ‘win-lose’ not ‘win –win’). This style can come to dominate the bargaining process and damage relationships.

  • Compromising
  • When an individual is keen to conclude a negotiation in a fair and equitable way they may rush the bargaining process and make concessions too quickly.


Individuals can demonstrate different styles in reaction to different contexts. The skilled negotiator learns to adopt the styles that are relevant to the context.


  1. Shell, G.R. (2006), Bargaining for advantage, Penguin Books, New York




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