Salary negotiation is one of the trickiest skills to learn as a young professional. Right and wrong ways to do it often feel like a complete mystery. And once the conversation starts, your confidence can go right out the window.
But you’ll be at an advantage if the person you’re negotiating with has a similar personality to you, new research suggests. While you might think having an outgoing and confident demeanor could put you at an advantage in a negotiation, talks go most smoothly when the two people involved have similar personalities.
“Normally, you would consider agreeableness—that you’re cooperative and kind—to be a good thing. And being disagreeable—being cold—to be a bad thing,” said Fadel Matta, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia Terry College of Business and an author of the study, to the university. “But with negotiations we find that’s not necessarily true. The same thing goes for someone who is extroverted. It’s not always a good thing when you’re entering negotiations.”
Matta and his research team surveyed more than 200 people on their personalities—based on the standard “Big Five” personality traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extroversion—and assigned them roles in mock settlement negotiations between two companies. Then the negotiators answered questions about the process and their partners.
Looking at one participant’s personality alone didn’t correlate with any negotiation outcomes, but comparing notes on both negotiators’ personalities revealed a pattern. Negotiations between people with similar scores on agreeableness and extroversion seemed to go more smoothly, finish more quickly and leave both with better impressions of the other person, more so than talks between people who were dissimilar.
At their core, negotiating with another person is about building a relationship with them, Matta said, and that’s best accomplished when both people are coming at it in the same way.
“If you’re a jerk and I’m a jerk, then it might seem like we’ll never get anywhere in negotiations, but it’s actually more useful to put two similarly minded people together,” he said.
While you can’t change your personality or that of your boss or potential boss, you can try meeting that person where they are and attempt to match their energy and style during the conversation.
“Companies don’t negotiate; people do,” wrote Deepak Malhotra for the Harvard Business Review. “And before you can influence the person sitting opposite you, you have to understand her. What are her interests and individual concerns?”