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  • Writer's pictureSeth Lee

Openness in Negotiations

In the last article, I talked about how neuroticism plays a major role in negotiations. You might have remembered me briefly talking about the OCEAN acronym or the ‘Big Five’ personality traits, which are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. It’s important to know each of these personality traits because each of them play a major role in not only how we conduct negotiations, but how we generally conduct our conversations with one another. For this article, I’m going to talk about the personality trait of ‘Openness’.

What is Openness?

Openness according to simplypsychology is a personality trait associated with one’s willingness to explore new ideas, new experiences, and new challenges. That’s not to say that everyone who’s not as open as others aren’t willing to try new things, but in general openness is at most a broad but specific definition of those who specifically seek new things all the time. Think of a friend who likes to travel a lot, or someone who wants to try new foods they never had before. Perhaps you are that person! That’s essentially what openness is! According to verywellmind, those high in openness can be characterized as someone who’s very creative, focused on tackling new challenges, and happy to think about abstract concepts. Abstract in this sense could be anything that doesn’t have a good answer to it like the meaning of life. It may sound like it’s always ideal to have a high degree of openness; however, it’s important to note that it’s not ideal all the time. While there are jobs that require creativity such as marketing and copywriting, there are other jobs that are more focused on procedure such as banking for example. Those who are lower in openness may tend to resist change, and not have a tendency to think in the abstract too much. While it may sound like being low in openness isn’t ideal, there is a benefit in it as there are jobs that require one to follow the rules strictly instead of relying heavily on someone’s creativity to mend or shape the rules as they please. Jobs stated earlier as ones like banking but also ones like accounting, where it’s probably best to not break the rules set forth by the company since accounting itself is very much a procedure-based profession. In general it’s good to follow the rules, but sometimes thinking outside the box is not that bad, it all depends on the context.

How Does Openness Play a Factor into Negotiations?

Since we are talking about negotiations specifically, it’s important to note that openness itself could be beneficial to negotiations. One who’s open-minded for example, is more willing to tackle new challenges, which can for some mean talking with anyone, including those they may disagree with but are still curious about what they have to say. Let’s say for example, one who’s open is talking to someone who favors the Lakers over the Warriors, while it may seem like a strong barrier to a good conversation if both sides are passionate about basketball, one who’s open-minded may be more willing to get to know the other side and even be willing to get along with them despite their differences in their preferences. That itself sounds best for a negotiation, especially during the course of disagreement. Based on studies conducted on how the Big Five personality traits correlate with negotiation management: “openness was not found related to any of the conflict styles studied here” (Ma, 19) What does this mean though? It means that in general, openness lacks a connection with a type of negotiating tactic. While some may be destined to compromise or compete during the course of a negotiation, those who are high in openness are less likely to do either, and instead it depends on the context of the negotiation.

That same study stated that openness in general “show strong ability of adjustment and adaptation towards conflict situations” (Ma, 19), which in a way means that flexibility is in fact a good part of openness as well. It does make sense considering that those who are open-minded are willing to try new things, including different techniques if the situation requires them to. Think back to the basketball analogy, when there are two fans of opposing basketball teams talking with one another. Let’s say that the conversation goes sour and the Lakers fan starts arguing with the open-minded negotiator on why the Warriors is objectively a bad team. While a neurotic or agreeable person may react in a way to compromise or disagree with the other side, an open-minded person may instead find a mutually beneficial solution to the situation, be that may it could be as simple as letting the other side continue talking so they can hear their side more and then asking questions to help stimulate the conversation and avoiding it turning into a debate. Likewise, there is still a good benefit to being more open than closed especially during the course of a negotiation or a conflict. In a way it might be even ideal to at least be open about yourself during a negotiation as “negotiators who scored high on openness contributed to greater mutual gain in a integrative negotiation” (Pon.Harvard)

What Does This Mean?

Openness itself is as broad as it sounds. While it may lack a good connection to a type of negotiating tactic, it at the same time, can alleviate and loosen tensions and conflict thanks to open-minded people being more adaptable to their situations. In a way, it may be at least ideal for everyone to work towards being more open-minded, at least during the course of a negotiation, as it can help create mutually beneficial relationships and outcomes as well. That’s not to say that being low in openness is bad per say, rather it’s different depending on the context that follows it.


About Intellext™

Intellext is an AI startup that is revolutionizing the way contracts are negotiated, accelerating time to close, and improving deal terms. Intellext’s Intelligent Negotiation Platform™ eliminates the complexities of contract redlines and stakeholder collaboration and optimizes deal terms by applying machine learning during the negotiation process.

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