Is your negotiation style red or blue?

In this article, we build on an earlier article that covered how to use words to support our influencing tactics. The words we choose will vary greatly depending on whether we want to invite collaboration or competition.  

Here we explain the 2 negotiation styles that are associated with collaboration and competition, and how you can adapt your style to achieve your outcomes.  

Understanding negotiation styles 

At ENS, we refer to 2 styles of negotiation:  

  • Collaboration is the blue style. When operating in the blue style, behaviour can range from 1 (listening) to 10 (conceding).  
  • Competition is the red style. In this style, behaviour ranges from 1 (focused) to 10 (aggressive). 

If you wanted to create tension and place pressure on the other party, you would choose a red negotiation style. However, if your aim was to invite collaboration and be supportive, you would opt for blue.  

You can create a red or blue climate by combining different tactics to reinforce your chosen style of negotiation. Words and the way you say them support the climate you’re trying to create. 

Both red and blue behaviours sit along a continuum. When we’re operating at the higher end of the scale, our behaviour tends to be less socially acceptable than when it’s at the lower end of the scale.  

Keeping your style flexible  

Some of us are competitive by nature. ‘Red’ people tend to avoid sharing information. They will want the other party to make concessions, are not particularly interested in the other party’s needs, and will hold pre-conceived solutions. 

‘Blue’ people are more cooperative. They’re interested in the needs of the other party and happy to share information. They ask questions and are willing to discuss possible concessions to reach a desirable solution for both parties. 

We are what we are. We all have a natural style (also known as our ‘reflex’ style). If it’s blue, that’s fine. If it’s red, that’s also fine! 

But it’s important to develop style flexibility. That means a cooperative person should be able to become competitive when it will help them to achieve a goal. Similarly, competitive people must learn to become cooperative when needed. 

That might sound easy enough, but the reality is a bit more complex. How do you react when confronted with a real-life situation that is highly emotional? Research has shown that people tend to go back to their reflex style. Sometimes, that means our response will be sub-optimal, making it harder for us to achieve our desired outcome. 

Using words to support your style 

Often, blue people will struggle to ‘play red’ and find lots of excuses to explain why they avoid confrontation. Similarly, red people find it hard to ‘play blue’ and will try and explain why going blue is a waste of time.  

But skilled negotiators and influencers can flex their style and use appropriate words to support both types. 

Words are so powerful when used consciously. If you think about the words you use and how to express those words, that will help you to start flexing your style. You’ll be well on your way to managing the climate of your interactions and getting more of what you want!  

Here are our top tips for using words to support your influencing tactics. 

Tips for negotiators 

  • Think about your behaviour and the words you tend to use when under pressure. 
  • Think about the 2 negotiation styles and identify your reflex style. Are you a red or blue person? 
  • Where do you sit on the scale from 1 to 10? 
  • Show your self-evaluation to people who know you well. Do they agree with you? 
  • How do you feel about switching styles? What is your comfort zone when it comes to style flexibility? 
  • How could you enrich your wording to extend your comfort zone? 
  • Next time you’re in an influencing situation, practise using different words to try and achieve your outcome.  

How ENS can help 

ENS consultants work with clients all over the world to help them learn how to negotiate effectively. Understanding red and blue negotiation styles and knowing how to use words to change your style is a fundamental skill that can help you achieve your goals in all kinds of situations.  

Want to know more? 

To discuss this article in more depth and explore how you can develop your negotiation capabilities, contact us on the form below. 


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