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Integrative (cognizant) negotiators

Read about the key characteristics and qualities of the ideal type of negotiator, an Integrative Negotiator.
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The characteristics of previous negotiation types are not necessarily negative, if fluidly used in the right circumstances. This is the case with Cognizant Negotiators.

Cognizant Negotiators know how to use competitiveness and assertiveness when quick and decisive action is needed, or when they need to defend their own rights or positions which they believe to be fair and correct.

They use avoidance when they sincerely believe that someone else is in a better position to resolve a given conflict or when the conflict is trivial/beyond their reach.

A Cognizant Negotiator also knows how to compromise to integrate different points of view. They’re willing to compromise with the other party when they realize they’re wrong or when the benefit of accommodating them outweighs confrontation.

They can use manipulation strategies without being sneaky or underhanded, but open and transparent instead, i.e. “I’ve managed to manipulate the outcome so it’s within budget, timeframe, and meets everyone’s wishes instead of just my own”.

Their assertiveness makes them respected and recognized, and their ability to cooperate makes others want to negotiate with them.

The ability to walk away from “non-negotiable” situations saves both them and others time and energy. They employ powers of persuasion to get the best results.

When they find themselves in a “Fixed Pie” situation, they apply an integrative approach by developing a broader range of options to work with and create an environment where both parties can express their interests. Ideally, this can lead to a mutually satisfactory agreement.

All these characteristics make people enthusiastic to negotiate with them. Agreements reached with these negotiators will be fair and satisfactory to everyone involved, and the relationships established will endure beyond the negotiation table, opening up space for future collaborations, respect and trust.

Habits of a cognizant negotiator

A comic-style illustration of EI and Caroline having a conversation. A comic-style illustration of EI and Caroline having a conversation.

Caroline: It sounds like you are having a hard time getting everyone on board.
EI: Yes, we really need to figure this out.
Caroline: I think your idea about restructuring the deadlines can solve this.
EI: How would you do this?
Caroline: What if we team up in pairs and tackle the most urgent needs first and then we can move on to our separate tasks with confidence and efficiency?
EI: Yes! This sounds doable.

Verbal

The Cognizant Negotiator’s communication is clear, calm, accurate and transparent. Their tone of voice is stable, soft, calm, firm, and fluid, demonstrating confidence, security, and sincerity.

Cognizant Negotiators will immediately try to establish a positive relationship with the other party by establishing a sincere interest in negotiating (“I’m excited by the opportunity to work together”). They will demonstrate their preparedness and respect for the negotiation process (“Based on my research…”). They will also clearly and concisely state their expectations (“Here’s what I want to achieve…”), and what they expect from the other party (“If you could do… I’m on board”). The Cognizant Negotiator considers the interests of both parties by proposing inclusive solutions (“I think we could reach a mutually beneficial agreement by…”), using diplomatic language (“Here’s my counterproposal…”).

They also firmly state their limits (“I think we can offer this concession…. but not that one”), and are transparent about their requirements (“I’d be willing to comply if you…”). Cognizant Negotiators always try to evaluate every possible option before making a decision (“Let’s consider this alternative… before…”).

Non-verbal

A Cognizant Negotiator’s non-verbal behavior includes maintaining eye contact and focusing their attention on the other person. They send signals of active listening and understanding, such as nodding and smiling. Their gestures demonstrate calmness and confidence. They don’t wave their hands or other parts of the body, opting instead to hold them in a natural position to convey openness and attentiveness. Their body position is relaxed, upright, secure, confident, and respectful of the other party’s personal space.

Qualities of cognizant negotiators

Awareness and mindfulness

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Cognizant Negotiators acknowledge their own biases, points of view, and needs along with an understanding that the other party does as well. They understand how their biases affect the way they interpret information and set goals. This awareness allows Cognizant Negotiators to have control over their biases and find reasonable ground on which to negotiate.

Honesty

An illustration of a person with long hair holding their hand over their heart. A staircase emerges from their heart, leading to a door in the distance.

Cognizant Negotiators are honest with themselves and others about why they need to negotiate and know the boundaries that determine whether to walk away or compromise. They understand that the other party has probably gone through the same exercise and will come with their own sets of boundaries. Their communication is honest, direct and transparent.

Preparation

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The Cognizant Negotiator engages in detailed and exhaustive preparation. They take the time to analyze their interests, aims, concerns, and those of the other party as well. They evaluate which possible solution would be able to address both parties’ interests and evaluate the appropriateness of each option. They brainstorm about which questions they need to ask the other party about, and carefully uncover information they still need to learn.

Active listening

An illustration of a person holding their hand up to their ear, with concentric circles emanating from the ear.

Cognizant Negotiators actively listen with focus and attentiveness to what the other party is saying. This ability gives them a full understanding of the situation so they can identify with the other person’s problems and needs. Active listening enables Cognizant Negotiators to ask purposeful questions that bring new information and opportunities within the negotiation.

Critical thinking

An illustration of a person with a box in place of their head. The box is full of numbers, and the person is writing more numbers on it with one hand.

Cognizant Negotiators use critical thinking techniques to anticipate and understand the reactions of others. Thinking critically helps them spot debating tactics such as flawed reasoning or attempts at manipulation. Cognizant Negotiators are more objective in constructing arguments and deconstructing ideas by putting together information with clear links to cause-and-effect. Critical thinking helps them get to the root cause of problems and propose thoughtful solutions. Critical thinking also allows them to deliberately choose and adapt their strategies for specific conflict modes (e.g., being competitive, manipulative, evasive, deferential).

Flexibility

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Cognizant Negotiators know how and when to be flexible in their positions so they can adapt them according to changing situations and circumstances.

Creative thinking

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Cognizant Negotiators use creative thinking to resource and/or develop innovative solutions that generate value for all the parties involved.

Clear and thoughtful communication

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Cognizant Negotiators communicate with the other party with transparency, clarity and honesty. They’re clear and direct in their communication, making the negotiation process smooth and effective.

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