Agreeableness in Negotiations
Continuing in this series on how personality types can affect negotiations, this next installment is going to talk about the trait of “Agreeableness”, another part of the OCEAN acronym and of the Big Five. Just like with the other traits, agreeableness itself can mean a lot, as there is a range of definitions and differences between the amount of agreeableness one may have. I’ll explain how each aspect of agreeableness is both different and similar to one another.
What is Agreeableness?
Agreeableness is how someone gets along with other people whether it be friends or
acquaintances. Just like what the word suggests, having agreeableness means you generally agree or to avoid repetition, concur with others. Think of a time when you are working on a project with another person, and that person goes along with what you want to do with little to no pushback. This isn’t the same as avoiding a conversation or a discussion, rather they are going along with the conversation and the discussion. Essentially, that is what agreeableness is, the willingness to go along with what others are doing for the sake of making an idea work. However, like with every other trait, the degrees of which one has this type of personality can vary, and can differ from one another.
According to Simply Psychology, those with a high degree of agreeableness are trusting,
empathetic, and sympathetic. These aspects do make sense considering that just like that
example with the group project, highly agreeable people would want to get along with others more-so than they are interested in pushing their wants over your needs. According to Crystal Knows, highly agreeable people would work best in environments that involve them making positive and meaningful connections with their community. Careers that would fit best for this type of environment would be ones such as teachers, nurses, and judges. It does make sense considering that a job like nursing would involve one to strictly follow the orders of a higher-up such as a doctor who makes specific recommendations for how a patient gets treated. But also jobs like teachers, have to also be accommodating to others comfort level, as teachers (or at least the ones who are good at their jobs) would know how to make a learning environment encouraging for others to participate, which helps create a positive connection between themselves and their students. It may sound ideal to be strictly highly-agreeable, as it can create good relationships, which is essential for a lot of jobs like business. However there do come some downsides with it, one being the issue of coercion. Say for example one is making a deal with another person like a roommate on when to stop playing loud music in their rooms. That roommate (who may not be as agreeable), may find a way to persuade or convince that agreeable person that they need to play loud music for their own comfort, something that may conflict with the aspects of an agreeable personality, as they want to avoid imposing their wants over other’s needs. Situations like these may ironically put agreeable actors at a disadvantage despite it aligning with what they want to achieve, which is making connections with others.
In contrast, those who are lower in agreeableness can be more skeptical, demanding, and less sympathetic than others. To some extent, low agreeable people might be more cutthroat, willing to tell others what they feel even if it hurts their feelings. Think of a manager who would boss you around and bluntly let you know what you are doing wrong. While it may not sound perfectly ideal to always be this type of person, it may lead to one recognizing what they are doing wrong and leading to quick correction if necessary. Some jobs and careers aren’t as emphasized in connections as other careers. Crystal knows states that low agreeable people would work best in careers such as scientists, surgeons, programmers, engineers, and accountants. It does make sense to a degree considering that these jobs are very much logic-based and objective-oriented as they are based on problem-solving more than personality. It does make sense why one who is less agreeable would work best in these types of careers, considering that these jobs are more independent in nature contrasted with high-agreeable jobs which are more interdependent. Now knowing this, what does this mean in terms of negotiations?
How Does Agreeableness Play a Role into Negotiations?
It’s important to know that agreeableness, just like the other Big Five traits, can vary depending on how one chooses to negotiate with others. Research has found that “...agreeableness was found positively related to compromising and negatively related to competing style” (Ma, 19) It does make sense considering that simply going along with others won’t necessarily invite competition or debate with others on an issue like price. But likewise every negotiator has to make compromises every now and then, so it’s not necessarily bad to compromise when it’s necessary to.
In a distributive negotiation, “agreeableness seems to be a liability” (Barry, 353) It does make sense considering that distributive negotiations can be more one-sided and competitive, which might make an agreeable person assent more to the situation at hand, that being what the other side is pushing for. However, this can be more of a detriment than a benefit, considering that not all distributive negotiations works for both sides, as going along with whatever happens might make one take a deal that will work against them instead of working for them. It might make the better case that an agreeable personality might function better in an integrative negotiation, since those negotiations are about the satisfaction of both sides, rather than one side. However even in the terms of integrative negotiations “Agreeableness had no effect on outcomes” (Barry,357) Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean that agreeableness is necessarily a detriment in those types of settings, rather that it makes not a lot of impact on a whole in terms of what happens in the state of negotiations. One could argue that other personality types such as openness and conscientiousness would make a bigger impact within a negotiation than agreeableness.
There could be a variety of reasons why this could be the case, one being that as stated before, agreeable negotiators were more likely to compromise than compete, which could explain why outcomes aren’t significantly impacted enough for it to be said that it benefits negotiators more than other personality traits. However it could also be stated that it ties down to the person, less than the personality. There’s nothing wrong with agreeing with others nor is there anything wrong with disagreeing with others. However it depends on how much you do it before you end up compromising on everything instead of gaining at least something. Agreeable persons will likely won’t advocate for themselves often, instead of speaking up, they’ll likely let others speak for them, which can work both as a benefit and a detriment depending on the situation.
What Does This Mean?
Overall, agreeableness isn’t as black-and-white as it might suggest when it comes to
negotiations. But the lesson here isn’t that no one should ever agree, or always disagree, but agree to disagree when necessary. It’s good to get along with others even if that means making the occasional compromise, but never do it too much if you’re trying to get something out of a negotiation. Likewise negotiations are exchanges and bargains with others and sometimes that means speaking more for yourself, instead of always agreeing with others. In the next and last article, I’m going to talk about the personality trait of Extraversion, and how that could make an impact on negotiations.
Negotiation. [ebook] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [Accessed 2 August 2021].
Ma, Zhenzhong. “Exploring the Relationships between the Big Five Personality Factors, Conflict Styles, and Bargaining Behaviors.” SSRN Electronic Journal, June 2005, doi:10.2139/ssrn.735063.
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