In their book, Essentials of Negotiation, Roy J. Lewicki, David M. Saunders and Bruce Barry (7th ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, 2021) set out the traditional negotiation styles. They include:

  1. Contending (also called competing or dominating) in which a party will pursue his/her own “…outcomes strongly and show little concern for whether the other party obtains his or her desired outcome.” (Id. at 21.)
  2. Yielding (also called accommodating or obliging) in which the negotiator “… show[s] little interest or concern whether they attain their own outcomes, but they are quite interested in whether the other party attains his or her outcomes.” Simply put, they “let the other win.” (Id. at 22.)
  3. Inaction (also called avoiding). Here the negotiator “…show[s] little interest in whether they attain their own outcomes, as well as little concern about whether the other party obtains his or her outcomes. (Id.)
  4. Problem Solving (also called collaborating or integrating). Under this strategy, the negotiator “…show[s] high concern for attaining their own outcomes and high concern for whether the other party attains his or her outcomes.” (Id.)
  5. Compromising. Here, one uses “…a moderate effort to pursue one’s own outcomes and a moderate effort to help the other party achieve his or her outcomes.” (Id.)

A recent article appearing in The Conversation and reposted on the CNN website on April 10, 2023, has re-labelled these classic terms. Entitled “Whether you’re a “shark”, “teddy bear” or “fox”, here’s how to ease conflict with family and friends “, Sam Carr (the author) discusses the work of social psychologist David W. Johnson who has studied conflict management “styles” in humans and how we typically respond to conflict. (Id.)  Johnson argues that our attempts at resolving conflict are simply an attempt to balance our own goals or concerns with those of the other people with whom we are in conflict. (Sound familiar?) (Id.)

Johnson lays out the 5 styles or approaches to resolving conflict which are simply an interesting re-naming of the classical labels:

  • “Turtles” withdraw, abandoning both their own goals and the relationship. The result tends to be frozen, unresolved conflict.
  • “Sharks” have an aggressive, forceful take and protect their own goals at all costs. They tend to attack, intimidate and overwhelm during conflict.
  • “Teddy bears” seek to keep the peace and smooth things over. They drop their own goals completely. They sacrifice for the sake of the relationship.
  • “Foxes” adopt a compromising style. They are concerned with sacrifices being made on both sides and see concession as the solution, even when it results in less-than-ideal outcomes for both sides.
  • “Owls” adopt a style that views conflict as a problem to be resolved. They are open to solving it through whichever solutions offer both parties a pathway to achieve their goals and maintain the relationship. This can involve considerable time and effort. But owls are willing to endure the struggle. (Id)

  Comparing Johnson’s labels with the classic labels, one finds that “turtles” are Inaction or avoiding while “sharks” are contending aka dominating and competing. “Teddy bears” are yielding or accommodating or obliging while “Foxes” are compromising and last but not least are the “Owls” which are the problem solvers, collaborators and integrative bargainers.

And as you might suspect and as any negotiation course teaches, using the approach of the Owl is usually the most efficient and long-lasting way to resolve a dispute. Although, as the article notes, using the “Owl” approach takes considerable time and effort and much struggle, it usually provides a practical, sustainable, acceptable and enforceable resolution.  That is, one that everyone accepts, can live with and will abide by.

… Just something to think about.



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