Adjust your style to maximise your chance of success

Every negotiation is an exchange between yourself and at least one other person.  It is a conversation and like all conversations there is always the potential for misunderstanding.

A negotiation is a particularly pointed conversation.  Herb Cohen aptly describes the negotiation arena as a ‘web of tension’.

There is a way to gain perspective and perhaps an edge in this very human interaction.  It begins with the realisation that not everybody thinks like you.  If, amidst the tension, tactics, games and competing interests you can manage to decipher how your counterpart is thinking, you will gain an advantage.

If you are among the many 6 Degrees (now mojologic!) alumni you will likely remember the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) and how it can help you communicate more effectively.

In this article we will explore how HBDI can help you gain a competitive advantage at the negotiation table.  The goal is to appreciate how your counterpart prefers to receive information rather than how you, yourself, may like to receive information.

The signs and signals are there, with every interaction, your job is to tune in and adjust your style to each negotiation.

The HBDI Model at a Glance

Here is a quick overview of the four quadrants within HBDI and the associated thinking preferences:


What is Whole Brain Thinking?



Quadrant A – Dealing with the Blue Quadrant Negotiator

donald trump

Blue Quadrant Orientation:

The blue quadrant negotiator is primarily focussed on the outcomes.  They will have set a definitive goal for the negotiation.  They may lead with facts and figures and indicate a desire to ‘get down to business’ reasonably early in the conversation.  The more extroverted blue quadrant negotiator may attempt to control the process.


  • Be upfront – clearly state the position you are taking.
  • Know your stuff – engage through a mutual appreciation of the facts
  • Ensure technical accuracy – maintain power by demonstrating a thorough command of the variables
  • Provide logical analysis for the positions you take


  • Out blue a blue – ie. Engage in unnecessary argument.  A better approach is de-escalate or your will find yourself in a ping pong match.  Your blue quadrant counterpart will become your opponent and they will not quit.
  • Add any fluff – avoid all lily gilding
  • Cry!
  • Make claims or requests without facts to back them up

Quadrant B – Dealing with the Green Quadrant Negotiator


Green Quadrant Orientation:

The green quadrant negotiator will be focussed on the process.  They will seek or propose a structured approach to the conversation, there may be rules and agendas.   Your green quadrant counterpart may become mired in the detail and is unlikely to explore ‘big picture’ or ‘in principle’ agreements.  They believe the devil is in fact, in the detail.


  • Ensure you have all the details relating to each variable in the negotiation
  • Prepare an agenda – even better; circulate the agenda to the other party prior to the meeting
  • Take your time and move through the variables step by step
  • Indicate that you will take the time necessary to flesh out all the details
  • Refer to rules, processes and policies that apply


  • Wander too far off track – the other party may become uncomfortable with a tangential discussion; this could impede your progress
  • Include variables at the last minute – the green quadrant thinker is not a fan of surprises
  • Be late!

Quadrant C –  Dealing with the Red Quadrant Negotiator


Red Quadrant Orientation:

The red quadrant negotiator will be aware of the interpersonal dynamics within the negotiation.  Their frame for assessing your proposal may be the impact any decision will have on others, or themselves.  Your red quadrant counterpart is intuitive and will pick up on what is ‘not said’.  They will care about how others view their success in the negotiation.


  • Focus on the individual – pay equal attention to the verbal and non-verbal clues
  • Check for true understanding by asking follow up questions
  • Demonstrate your own genuine feelings regarding the outcome of the negotiation
  • Validate their point of view – ensure they feel that you are paying attention and you recognise and appreciate their point of view


  • Cut them off mid sentence – not only is this likely to offend, you will actually interrupt their thought processing and risk de-railing the discussion
  • Skip rapport building – this is true for all thinking preferences but here you run the added risk of offending the other party
  • Scoff!
  • Lie about how you feel – they will know and worse, once trust is broken you won’t get it back



Quadrant D:  Dealing with the Yellow Quadrant Negotiator

 bransonYellow Quadrant Orientation:

The yellow quadrant negotiator is thinking about the future.  They will be looking for a creative solution when interests do not align in the negotiation.  Your yellow quadrant negotiator will be happy to take some risks and break the rules.  Too much structure and reams of detail will put them off – its not fun anymore.


  • Allow them space to think/create – pose a problem at get them to dream up the solution
  • Refer to big picture and long term implications – remember to re-connect with the ‘why’ of the negotiation; what is it you are trying to achieve together?
  • Re-assure them that the detail can be addressed by others, not them.  never them.
  • Be prepared for tangential discussion


  • Refuse to discuss new information
  • Cut off an exuberant train of thought – rather steer the conversation back to solid ground
  • Insist on a rigid agenda
  • Become mired in the detail


A great big caveat:

The advice in this article is based on the assumption that you care about the relationship you have with the other party after the negotiation.

This article is written with the understanding that it is possible to achieve a win/win outcome and actually build the client relationship through the negotiation process.  However, we know this is not always the reality.  In fact, we believe one of the most critical aspects of negotiation preparation is about defining its nature – Is it collaborative, competitive or even aggressive.  From here you will choose your approach; including strategies and tactics.


A final word on HBDI

The Herrmann model provides us with a useful organising principle and reminds us that we all think differently, therefore we ‘show up’ differently at the negotiation table.  Its not about putting people in boxes.

Think about the quadrant that is your least preferred.  Are these people your achilles heel in negotiations.  If so, at least you know where you need to spend more time in preparation.

Good luck out there.