Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 1
In Search of Master Negotiators:
A Negotiation Competency Model
Remigiusz Smolinski and Yun Xiong*
Over the last four decades, the field of negotiation has become a fully
recognized academic discipline around the world and negotiation
courses and competitions have become increasingly popular. Although
it is believed that negotiators may be trained and that negotiation is
a skill that can be taught and evaluated, the question of how to assess
negotiation performance systematically and comprehensively remains
largely unanswered. This article proposes a negotiation competency
model for evaluating negotiation performance. The model includes a
set of selected negotiation competencies together with proficiency levels
and their behavioral indicators. Our goal is to help scholars design
more effective negotiation courses and fairer negotiation competitions,
improve negotiation pedagogy, and train negotiators who are well
prepared to handle conflicts in our increasingly complex society.
Keywords: negotiation, competency model, behavioral
indicators, negotiation competition, negotiation pedagogy
© 2020 The Authors. Negotiation Journal published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of President and Fellows of Harvard
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License, which permits
use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commer-
*Corresponding author: HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Stüttgerhofweg 15,
50858 Cologne, Germany.
Remigiusz Smolinski is a professor at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. His
e-mail address is email@example.com.
Yun Xiong holds an MBA from HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. Her e-mail
address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
Since the early 1980s the teaching of negotiation and conflict resolution
has become a fully recognized academic discipline (Greenhalgh and
Lewicki 2015), thanks to Roger Fisher and William Ury’s best-selling
book Getting to Yes (1981) and the work of many other scholars. During
that time the field has drawn great interest from scholars and academic
institutions around the world, leading to a wide variety of specialized
courses and programs focusing on mediation, reconciliation, arbitration,
lawyering skills, and conflict and dispute resolution (Cobb 2000; Nolan-
Harley 2003). These courses and programs emphasize the importance
of joint problem-solving, aligning interests, and looking for mutual
gains. The complexity of this interdisciplinary, dynamic, and interac-
tive process has led many negotiation scholars (Menkel-Meadow 2009;
Druckman and Ebner 2013; Bordone and Viscomi 2015; Greenhalgh and
Lewicki 2015; Wheeler 2015) to ask questions about the effectiveness
of negotiation pedagogy in terms of both the content of the offered
courses as well as the pedagogical methods, and the extent to which
they measurably improve students’ negotiation skills.
The last decades also have witnessed the emergence and popular-
ity of negotiation competitions, organized to test the abilities and skills
of student negotiators in role-play simulations (Smolinski and Kesting
2013). The emergence of negotiation competitions stems from scholars’
widely held beliefs that negotiation is a skill that can be developed
through systematic training and that individuals’ proficiency in negotia-
tion can be measured and compared (e.g., Fortgang 2000; Patton 2009;
Fisher and Fisher-Yoshida 2017). While research has shown strong evi-
dence for stable individual differences in negotiation performance (e.g.,
Gist, Stevens, and Bavetta et al. 1991; Elfenbein et al. 2008; Herbst and
Schwarz 2011), the key question remains: How can we systematically
and holistically compare negotiation skills and evaluate negotiators’
performance in negotiation competitions and other settings?
There is no general consensus among negotiation scholars on
universally applicable evaluation methodologies for capturing a nego-
tiator’s performance in classroom settings and/or during negotiation
competitions. Therefore, it is difficult to select and compare the ped-
agogical methods and approaches that most effectively help students
become better negotiators. Although concepts such as value claiming,
value creation, and Pareto efficiency can be measured on the basis of
negotiated outcomes, the usefulness of such measures is limited to
scoreable negotiation simulations and such numbers merely reflect out-
comes rather than overall performance. Over the last decade scholars
generally have agreed that students’ quantitative negotiation outcomes
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 3
should not eclipse significant qualitative aspects of negotiation perfor-
mance such as relationships, emotions, attitudes, and values (Coleman
and Lim 2001; Movius 2008; Halpert et al. 2010). These factors cannot
easily be measured and compared, but they certainly impact negotiation
Thus, despite their importance, there is no sufficient method for
systematically investigating the qualitative aspects of negotiation perfor-
mance. Negotiation literature does provide some advice on improving
qualitative skills (e.g., Malhotra 2008; Gates 2016), highlighting a set
of behaviors that are important in negotiations, for example, “the four-
teen behaviors that make the difference” (Gates 2016: 4). However, such
guidance often lacks academic rigor and solid evidence of the effective-
ness of suggested techniques.
Although more attention has been paid to quantitative rather than
qualitative measures, only a few scholars have explored the connection
between quantitative factors and how such connections impact nego-
tiation performance (e.g. Poitras et al. 2015; Coleman 2018). Further
research in this area holds much potential. Coleman (2018) put forward
a conflict-resolution model involving two types of meta-competencies:
the competencies to manage different types of conflicts and the com-
petencies to navigate through systemic complexities to support con-
structive problem-solving. Poitras et al. (2015) designed a competency
scale for mapping out the most important managerial mediation com-
petencies from four perspectives—cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and
We have thus identified a gap between the existing scattered em-
pirically derived negotiation guidance and a systematic, comprehensive,
and rigorous framework for evaluating negotiation performance in both
classrooms and competitions. To bridge this gap, this article proposes
a negotiation competency model that places selected negotiation com-
petencies in a framework to which scholars, practitioners, and students
can refer, together with proficiency levels and observable behaviors
along which individuals can be evaluated across various negotiation
settings. Measuring and comparing negotiators’ performance with our
model can help one design and test more effective negotiation courses
and curricula and train better negotiators.
Theoretical Basis and Methodology
The term “competency” entered the field of applied psychology in the
1970s (e.g., McClelland 1973) and has gained much traction due to its
cross-disciplinary application. The significance of competency models
lies in the fact that they provide a systematic and holistic approach for
assessing an individual’s skills in the context of a performance (Mansfield
4 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
2006). In “Testing for Competence Rather Than for ‘Intelligence,’”
McClelland argued that competency tests should include “traditional cog-
nitive [competencies] involving reading, writing, and calculating skills”
and “what traditionally have been called personality variables” (1973:
10). Drawing on the definitions of other researchers (e.g., Parry 1996; Le
Diest and Winterton 2005; Sampson and Fytros 2008), we define compe-
tency as a set of observable and measurable knowledge and skills that
may be distinguished as more or less inferior, average, or superior when
individuals are acting within the same performance context.
While various definitions of “competency model” may be found in
the literature, scholars agree that it is a collection of competencies that
are needed for effective performance when, for example, training or
working (Mansfield 1996; Campion et al. 2011; Suhairom et al. 2014; El
Asame and Wakrim 2018). It is worth noting that a competency model
is not merely a set of competencies. First, a competency model is an
instrument that allows organizational leaders to assess members’ skills
systematically and dynamically (Parry 1996). Second, the competencies
included in the model usually represent an organization’s objectives and
strategies. Therefore, we started constructing our negotiation compe-
tency model with a definition of its goals and objectives. The purpose
of the model is to help us comprehensively and consistently assess
negotiation performance and train students and managers to become
Deriving Competency Models from Goals and Objectives
As noted, competency models are linked to the goals and strategies of
an organization (Parry 1996; Drganidis and Mentzas 2006; Mansfield
2006). Hence, when it comes to negotiation pedagogy, the development
of a competency model should start with a definition of the goals and
objectives pursued by the relevant academic curricula and programs.
As suggested by Campion et al., once the mission, vision, value, and
strategy are made part of the core competency framework, “technical
and leadership competencies can be derived and their measurable per-
formance and metrics should have direct linkage to the top tier of goals
and strategies” (2011: 232).
The mission and vision of negotiation pedagogy are typically to
train negotiators who are equipped with the skills, self- and social
awareness, and ethics necessary to create and claim value, while build-
ing sustainable relationships in complex business, legal, or diplomatic
environments (Wheeler 2006; Bordone and Viscomi 2015; Ebner 2016).
Therefore, our model must encompass competencies that not only
demonstrate effective negotiation skills, but also promote attitudes and
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 5
values that help negotiators navigate complex processes with a high
degree of integrity. The selection of competencies and/or behaviors for
which proficiency levels are measured must align with the model’s spe-
cific area of application and the goals and objectives that are most rele-
vant to the particular context in which the negotiator is acting.
Top-Down Instead of Bottom-Up
Competency modeling should start with the gathering of information
by an organization’s top executives, who have the clearest vision of
the organization’s goals and its future direction (Campion et al. 2011).
The following model was developed based on a review of relevant
literature, feedback from experienced negotiation scholars and practi-
tioners as well as organizers of negotiation competitions, and a review
of the judging criteria used in selected international negotiation com-
petitions. This top-down method ensures that the competency model
captures the most essential aspects of effective negotiation, while clar-
ifying and connecting the various terms and concepts of negotiation
According to Campion et al., competency modeling methods include
multiple data collection methods such as observations, SME
interviews, and structured brainstorming methods in focus
groups to identify potential competency information; the use
of clear construct definitions in the competencies and linkages
to theory and literature; the use of survey methodology …; the
use of sampling techniques; the use of appropriate statistical
analyses; [and] the assessment of reliability and other psycho-
metric quality checks. (2011: 236)
Accordingly, our modeling process started with a review of negoti-
ation literature for definitions of skills, tactics, and strategies as well
as other aspects of negotiation performance. While we reviewed the
literature, we conducted interviews with negotiation professors, pro-
fessional trainers, and organizers of negotiation competitions, gather-
ing suggestions on how to assess negotiation performance. We then
organized these suggestions into competency categories. We included
in our model only those categories which, according to the literature,
influence the effectiveness of negotiations. If our model is valid, it will
apply to classroom and competition settings regardless of the simula-
tions that are used. We hope that the model serves as a jumping-off point
6 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
for further discussion by negotiation scholars and practitioners about
the systematic assessment and comparison of negotiation performance.
Defining the Competencies and Their Proficiency Levels
Having analyzed the data gathered from our literature review and in-
terviews, the next task was to define each competency and its different
proficiency levels. Proficiency levels measure how accomplished some-
one is in the development or performance of a competency (Parry 1996)
and are essential for using the model in performance evaluations. When
the levels are designed for training purposes, they can be defined in a
way to motivate people by emphasizing how to advance and improve
one’s skills (Mirabile 1997; Rodriguez et al. 2002). Although we have
observed the use of proficiency levels in the judging criteria of some ne-
gotiation competitions, the levels were not described in enough detail to
allow for consistent judgments of proficiency within and between com-
petitions. This is important because such detailed descriptions make it
easier for observers such as teachers and judges to differentiate among
performances and give more targeted guidance to students. Hence, we
compiled a detailed account of behavioral indicators for each compe-
tency in our model based on the data gathered in our literature review
The Negotiation Competency Model
We clustered a variety of negotiation skills and attitudes into four
broader categories: language and emotionality, negotiation intelli-
gence, relationship building, and moral wisdom. The logic of such
an arrangement follows the ease with which one may observe these
skills and attitudes during negotiations. Language and emotionality
are the first and most easily observable part of negotiators’ behavior
and create a direct impression about negotiators’ style and personal-
ity. This category is then followed by the concrete skills and tactics
a negotiator uses, summarized in our model under negotiation intel-
ligence. Finally, the third and last categories, relationship building
and moral wisdom, are more difficult to observe because negotiators’
motivations and values usually hide behind their various language
patterns and skills. These four categories are distinct but comple-
mentary, together constituting our negotiation competency model.
They draw a structured and comprehensive picture of categories of
competencies in which one must excel to become a master negotiator
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 7
Language and Emotionality
As the first category and the top level of our competency model, lan-
guage and emotionality refers to the language patterns and emotions
that a negotiator exhibits and that we can evaluate from our observa-
tions. To start with, language patterns refer to how negotiators construct
meanings of their interests, goals, identities, and relationships. Glenn
and Susskind (2010) emphasized the significant role that verbal com-
munication plays in negotiation by highlighting the methodology of
conversation analysis and discourse analysis. Putnam (2010) conducted
discourse analysis on negotiation talks in order to show the degree to
which language can reveal a negotiator’s identity, motivations, relation-
ships, and values. Emotionality, as important as language, is the observ-
able behavioral component of emotion, a measurement of a person’s
reactivity to a stimulus, especially in a social and cultural context (Reber
2001). Negotiators can greatly influence each other’s emotions, posi-
tively or negatively affecting them, and thus significantly shaping the
negotiation. Emotions can even determine whether or not the parties
reach agreement (Olekalns and Druckman 2014). The three most im-
portant negotiation competencies within the category of language and
emotionality are quality of expression, active listening and questioning,
and managing emotions.
Categories of the Negotiation Competency Model. Color figure
may be viewed at wiley onlin elibr ary.com/nejo.
8 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
Quality of Expression. In this competency, we mainly look at two
aspects. The first is the clarity and logic of negotiators’ expressions—
whether they can express themselves in a clear, convincing, and logical
manner. The second is the linguistic style of expressions, namely,
whether demands and other communications are expressed in a positive
(or at least neutral) and reasonable way even in intense situations, rather
than in a threatening way that could hinder the parties from reaching
an agreement. The focus of this competency is the actual speech of a
negotiator, the “commonsense acquaintance with tacit conversational
procedure” Maynard (2010). Quality of expression is the basis for other
important competencies such as value claiming and value creation.
Active Listening and Questioning. Listening and questioning are
important skills that help negotiators understand interests and gather
relevant information. Negotiation scholars (e.g., Liss 2011; Miles 2013)
have expounded on the importance of one’s style of questioning and
have provided guidance on handling a counterpart’s potential resistance.
In our model, this competency emphasizes a negotiator’s ability to
understand and elicit information by observing if he or she (1) exhibits
patient and focused active listening behavior when the counterpart
shares information in any form, such as stating interests or making
an offer or a counteroffer, and (2) asks questions to elicit information
proactively to avoid confusion and probe alternatives. Here, we value
behaviors such as asking a combination of direct and indirect, open and
closed questions, and tolerating silence after questions.
Managing Emotions. Managing and regulating emotions
is the underlying competency supporting negotiators’ performance
(Olekalns and Druckman 2014). It is the ability to (1) take another’s
perspective and show empathy for, and understanding of, another’s
interests and emotional needs and behaviors, and (2) regulate one’s
own emotions so as to minimize the effect of those that are negative.
Empathy enables negotiators to take the counterpart’s perspective
in order to discover opportunities for collaborative problem-solving
that result in better negotiation outcomes (Kidder 2017). Different from
empathy, self-regulation of one’s emotions concerns the negotiator
him or herself. It goes beyond simply suppressing one’s emotional
displays. Many scholars (Movius and Wilson 2011; Kim, Cundiff, and
Choi 2014; Tng and Au 2014; Williams and Hinshaw 2018) have studied
systematically the implications of different types of emotional
expressions and recognitions, such as anger and gratitude. According
to their findings, the effectiveness of leveraging these emotions
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 9
influences the counterpart’s recognition and behavior.
Intelligence is generally defined as “the ability to learn or understand
or to deal with new or trying situations” (Gardner 2000). According to
Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, several types of intelligence
are especially useful in negotiation: linguistic, logical-mathematical, in-
terpersonal, intrapersonal, and existential (2000). Following Smolinski
and Kesting (2013), we define negotiation intelligence as the ability
both to recognize the characteristics of one’s specific negotiation and
the attitude of negotiation partners, and to apply efficiently the methods
and techniques that optimize performance in such a setting.
To identify logically and practically the most consequential com-
petencies in this category, we set up two structures. First, we divided
fifteen significant negotiation skills into two broad types: value claim-
ing and value creation. Value claiming skills are often referred to as
distributive and competitive and related to insistence on one’s position,
while value creation skills are integrative and cooperative and involve
information sharing, empathy, and seeking opportunities for mutual
gains (Weingarten et al. 1990; Brown 2012b; Ingerson, DeTienne, and
Liljenquist 2015). Second, we deconstructed a typical multi-issue negoti-
ation process into phases—a preparation phase, an ongoing phase, and
an agreement phase—and ordered the skills chronologically.
Understanding Interests and Options. Many scholars have recognized the
importance of preparation in negotiations. As Fisher and Ury (1981:
179) noted, “Strategy is a function of preparation.” When teaching
classroom simulations, we tell students that before a negotiation begins,
it is essential to analyze and understand their own and their counterpart’s
interests, alternatives, and options. Such analysis is a basis for crafting
a negotiation strategy. This competency can be observed during a
negotiation’s preparation and at the beginning of a negotiation and may
be evaluated based on the negotiators’ understanding of their interests,
priorities, and BATNAs, and whether or not they have a plan for probing the
counterpart’s BATNA by, for example, asking prepared questions.
Stage Setting. Once they sit down at the negotiation table, skilled
negotiators often start with a friendly conversation and gradually glide
into the topic by clarifying issues at stake and proposing an agenda,
indicating their interests and goals. McKersie and Walton believe that
this “constructive use of power” can promote issue development and
create a basis for “an accommodating relationship” (2015: 495). By
setting the stage, the negotiators can not only better structure the
10 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
development of issues, but also gain an upper hand in the parties’ power
dynamics. Appropriate stage setting can also contribute to establishing
a constructive atmosphere and building a positive relationship for
cooperative joint problem-solving.
Making the First Offer. Most research finds that the advantage of
making the first offer lies in its “anchoring effect” (Fisher and Ury 1981;
Crump 2016). Fisher and Ury advise that by making a first offer, a
negotiator tries to “‘anchor’ the discussion early around an approach or
standard favorable” to him or her (1981: 82). According to Galinsky,
“how we perceive a particular offer’s value is highly influenced by
any relevant number that enters the negotiation environment” (2004:
3). The anchoring effect is hard to resist notwithstanding negotiators’
knowledge of it. However, there are limits to the first-offer effect. The
effectiveness of a first offer depends on one’s preparation, confidence, and
self-perception of power and control (Kim and Park 2017). An extreme
first offer can be neutralized by a strong counteroffer, or by the
counterpart’s questioning of the first offer’s validity and justifications
(Galinsky and Mussweiler 2001).
Managing Concessions. A concession is usually a revision of a
negotiator’s previous offer to the advantage of his or her counterpart
(Thuderoz 2017). It could be a compromise, or a promise made
in order to reach an agreement. “Systemic concessions”—the process of
planned and controlled concessions or exchanging of offers—can have
positive and negative impacts on various elements of the negotiation
process and its outcome (Pruitt 1981). As suggested by Prietula and
Weingart, concessions serve as “critical indicators” (2011: 78), revealing
how negotiators communicate important information and achieve
desired outcomes. Systematic concessions allow for a gradual
revealing and refinement of important information regarding one’s
interests and positions (Weingart et al. 1990). They also serve as
psychological and moral signals of mutual reciprocity (Thuderoz
2017) that create preconditions for cooperative problem-solving. The
interactive nature of concessions and the patterns of their progression
shape negotiation outcomes and the relationship between the parties.
Therefore, we believe that managing concessions is one of the significant
competencies of a master negotiator. With this competency, we intend to
capture the pattern, magnitude, and timing of concessions, investigating
issues such as the effectiveness of concessions in facilitating an
agreement, eliciting reciprocal counteroffers, and increasing satisfaction
with the negotiation process; and the effect of concessions on the
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 11
quality of the relationship between the parties.
Searching for Trade-Offs. The simplest value creation mechanism in
negotiation involves identifying the relative importance of issues and
making reasonable trade-offs between them. Reasonable trade-offs are
concessions made on relatively less important issues in exchange for
gains obtained in more important areas. This mechanism has been
known to economists since at least 1817, when David Ricardo offered his
comparative advantage theory. According to Raiffa (1982), an essential
prerequisite for value creation through trade-offs is a valuation of the
negotiated issues during preparation for a negotiation. To find reasonable
trade-offs, the parties need to explore their valuations of issues and
make exchanges that create value and move toward the Pareto frontier.
Generating Creative Options. Once the parties have understood each
other’s interests, they can begin to identify value-creating options.
This process can focus on dovetailing both parties’ interests within the
set of known options and/or creating new options that are beneficial
for both parties (Fisher and Ury 1981). In many negotiations, we have
observed how this competency alone can break an impasse and bring
about out-of-the-box, win-win solutions. Generating creative options
requires many skills, including the ability to take another’s perspective.
As Kidder noted, “perspective taking… can increase a negotiator’s
ability to arrive at a creative solution that meets both parties’ needs”
(2017: 257). Both in classroom settings and in negotiation competitions,
we often observe that solutions that break impasses and serve both
parties’ interests are possible only when negotiators are cooperative and
willing to share information.
Using Objective Criteria. Examples of objective criteria are precedent,
market value, professional standards, efficiency, and costs (Fisher and
Ury 1981). A deliberate search for, and adoption of, objective criteria
can make the negotiation process fairer and thus help sustain good
relationships among the parties. This competency involves the
negotiator’s ability to (1) justify his or her offers with criteria that are
convincing to a counterpart and (2) use objective criteria to advance
Post-Settlement Settlement. Post-settlement settlement may be used by
negotiators to increase the efficiency of an agreement that they have
reached (Raiffa 1985). Raiffa believed that “an independent analyst would
almost always be able to find ways of enhancing a deal, finding greater
efficiencies, or suggesting to the parties smarter trades they could make
12 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
that would guarantee them more value than they had already secured”
(Susskind 2017: 324). Therefore, we often encourage negotiators to
reserve a few minutes at the end of a negotiation simulation to review
together the agreement they reached, to see if there is any room to
improve the outcome for one or both parties “without reducing in any
way what everyone was already guaranteed” (Susskind 2017: 324).
Again, this is only possible if the parties are committed to cooperative
problem-solving and information sharing. If they cooperate with each
other in seeking additional mutual gain, negotiators usually can add
value to their agreement.
Strategic Adaptability. Strategic adaptability is a competency that
enables a negotiator to apply, flexibly switch between, or combine his or
her other competencies in value claiming and value creation. A skilled
negotiator must demonstrate different negotiation strategies and styles
in distributive, integrative, and multiparty negotiations. With the ability
to distinguish and navigate between these paradigms, negotiators can
generate better outcomes with positive long-term effects (Nisbett and
Wilson 1977). In a move away from advising negotiators on skill
improvement, researchers more recently have focused on understanding
how negotiators’ styles, motives, and competitiveness/cooperativeness
influence their strategy and outcomes. Many researchers (e.g.,
Weingart et al. 1990; Stuart 2011) believe that such adaptability is
necessary due to the inherent tension between creating and claiming
value in negotiation. Thus, we highly value the ability of negotiators
to adjust their strategies and styles to the specific negotiation setting
in which they find themselves and the behavior of their negotiation
Team Performance. Many negotiations require team effort and turn on
effective cooperation and leadership. In a discussion on the future of
negotiation pedagogy, Susskind noted that one possible direction “would
involve a shift away from individual decision making and emphasize,
instead, facilitative leadership and group creativity” (2015: 462–463).
Research has shown that negotiation teams generally outperform
individuals, especially in integrative negotiations (Thompson,
Peterson, and Brodt 1996; Morgan and Tindale 2002). One precondition
for such performance is group consensus, which is important “for
minimizing the effects of individual differences on negotiation outcomes”
(Mohammed et al. 2008). Good leadership reconciles the disparate
interests and motivations of team members so that they may work
toward a common goal (Lamm 1973; Salacuse 2017). In addition, a well-
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 13
functioning team depends on defining clear roles for team members
according to their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, we aim to
observe: (1) the quality of leadership and cooperation as demonstrated
by a clear group decision-making process and a group’s speaking in one
voice, and (2) whether or not the group’s members have clearly defined
roles to facilitate collaborative decision-making.
Trust and Relationship Building
The third category of our competency model, trust and relationship
building, is an action, a skill, an attitude, and a mindset. It may start
when negotiators first meet and shake hands, and can be shaped fur-
ther by many competencies described above. For example, the parties’
degree of trust and the quality of their relationship are affected by
whether or not issues are discussed in a structured manner and trade-
offs are realized without hurting a party’s interests. The strength of
the relationship and the degree of trust between the parties influence
the substantive outcomes of their negotiations. A wide range of re-
search has contributed to the theoretical development of this category.
Explaining the necessity for trust and strong relationships, Mouzas
(2016) noted that the resources we need to solve problems are dis-
persed among parties within the network of business relationships.
Trust and a good relationship are the keys to negotiating a successful
outcome. Ingerson, DeTienne, and Liljenquist (2015) adopted a similar
stand, proposing to look at negotiating behaviors through a relational
approach—viewing negotiators as agents connected in a system of
relationships and aiming to understand and act for the welfare of oth-
ers. Katz (2015) noted that without a certain degree of trust, parties
are trapped in the distributive fears of gains and losses, and therefore
lack the ability to try out new options that could potentially generate
In this category, we emphasize the cross-cultural nature of trust
and relationship building and recognize that cross-cultural negotiations
are becoming the norm in the business world as well as in classrooms
and competitions. As Salacuse (1998) noted, culture plays an essential
role in negotiations. Other researchers in this area are Brett (2017), who
explored the relationship between cultural differences and correspond-
ing negotiation strategies; Lee, Brett, and Park (2012), who compared
culturally influenced negotiation tactics from three Asian countries; and
Bond (2013), who wrote about the conflicts and opportunities that cul-
tural differences brought to an international competition.
Hence a good negotiator must be able to comprehend dispa-
rate behavioral norms motivated by different cultural mindsets. Many
14 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
competencies mentioned previously can already shape the quality of the
relationships and the degree of trust. So, with this competency, we focus
mainly on evaluating the attitudes shown by negotiators—whether they
are aware of cultural differences and the resulting tactics and can deal
with these differences with tolerance and respect.
A negotiation competency model must also include a moral compass
for negotiators. Therefore, as the last category and the most deeply im-
bedded competency in negotiators’ behavioral patterns, moral wisdom
reveals negotiators’ ethics and values.
Ethics in negotiation is a well-researched topic centered on such
aspects as deception, gender perception, power dynamics, and social
awareness (e.g., Provis 2000; Hackley 2014; Lee et al. 2014; Gaspar
and Chen 2016; Wertheim 2016; Tasa and Bell 2017). Although some
negotiation scholars believe that deception or misrepresentation of in-
formation should be recognized as an acceptable tactic (Lewicki 1983;
Strudler 1995; Faure 1998), others question the costs of deception both
on a moral and substantial level, as it could undermine negotiation out-
comes (Provis 2000; Schweitzer, DeChurch, & Gibson, 2005; Hinshaw,
Reilly, and Schneider 2013). We are convinced that negotiation instruc-
tors have a moral duty to teach their students that it is possible to be
an effective negotiator without compromising one’s moral and ethical
Another aspect of moral wisdom that we can observe in negotiation
behaviors is empathy—the ability to consider a counterpart’s feelings
and give appropriate emotional responses (Cohen 2010). Literature on
empathy in negotiation began to appear in the late 1990s. Mnookin,
Peppet, and Tulumello (1996, 2000) addressed the tension between em-
pathy and assertiveness and pointed out that the benefits of empathy
lie in value creation and creative problem-solving. They also suggested
that a balanced combination of empathy and assertiveness characterizes
the most effective negotiators and is necessary for sufficient value claim-
ing. Cohen (2010) demonstrated that an additional benefit of empathy
is that it tends to deter unethical bargaining by a counterpart. Brown
(2012a) looked at using value-based negotiation simulations to increase
We believe that unethical negotiating behaviors can harm mutual
gains and disrupt the building of long-term relationships and that em-
pathy increases the possibility of mutual gains and long-term relation-
ships. In TableOne below, we have defined two aspects that are central
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 15
to evaluating a negotiator’s moral wisdom: (1) whether or not the nego-
tiator manages information ethically, and (2) whether or not the nego-
tiator is able to consider the interests, concerns, and feelings of his or
her negotiation partner.
This category of our competency model is more difficult to ob-
serve than the competencies in previous categories. Still, we believe
that it is beneficial to incorporate it into our model and to compile
corresponding behavioral indicators. Ultimately, our underlying ped-
agogical objective is to help students and practitioners develop into
negotiators with an inner moral compass that helps them to navigate a
negotiation’s complexities, to make sound decisions on many matters
including how to allocate resources, and to treat others fairly (Coleman
Behavioral Indicators and Proficiency Levels
Our model includes a practical list of observable behavioral indicators
that can be used to assess negotiators’ performance. We examined each
competency, deconstructed it into different levels of proficiency, and
described the observable behaviors characterizing that level of profi-
ciency. These descriptions build on negotiation discourse analysis, our
experience in assessing the negotiators’ performance, and observations
from real-life and classroom negotiations. Discourse analysis scholars
have revealed how language patterns and marked usage shape the
collaborative interpretations of negotiating parties’ strategies, identi-
ties, relationships, emotions, and issue development (Brett et al. 2007;
Glenn and Susskind 2010; Putnam 2010). The use of sentence patterns,
pronouns, verbs, and so on can be a key to distinguishing between
various meanings, such as a threat, a suggestion, and a demand. These
research findings influenced our identification and arrangement of be-
havioral indicators, which rely heavily on the communication between
We adopted a typical five-point scale to evaluate levels of profi-
ciency, from significantly below average (- -), below average (-), aver-
age (0) to above average (+) and significantly above average (+ +). A
five-point scale provides a wide enough range for performance differ-
entiation while remaining manageable for the evaluators. As for the be-
havioral traits, after testing the model, we decided to compile only three
levels instead of five for the proficiency levels. This is because three lev-
els of behavioral traits per competency offer a manageable and practical
amount of instructions for evaluators without the risk of overwhelming
and confusing them with too much information.
16 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
Competency Level Behavioral traits
I. Emotionality and language
1. Quality of
Lack of clarity and logic in naming issues and
explaining interests; use of coercive or threating
expressions; excessive talking or insufficient
explanation that hinders problem-solving;
withholding relevant information
0Objective and convincing presentation of issues and
interests; suggestive and flexible; information sharing
based on the counterpart’s reciprocal behavior
Consistent use of objective, confident, and
convincing language even in emotionally intense
situations and under time pressure; information
Limited exchange of information concerning
issues and interests; frequent interruptions;
not asking enough questions; resistance to
answering partner’s questions
0Issues defined at the beginning and clear
understanding of partner’s priorities; active
listening without interrupting; asking questions
to elicit information and identify interests
Clear understanding of issues and priorities
results from asking questions and active
listening; combination of direct and indirect
questions, open and closed questions to elicit
information; tolerance for silence; patience
Negative emotions (frustration, anger,
dissatisfaction) hindering problem-solving and
relationship building; a lack of understanding
of, or respect for, partner’s emotions; inability to
respond to partner’s needs
0A regulated display of emotions, avoiding
negative emotions; respect for partner’s emotions
Emotions are well-regulated and used
strategically; partner’s emotional core concerns
are well understood and addressed appropriately
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 17
Competency Level Behavioral traits
II. Negotiation intelligence
Unclear about one’s own interests, priorities, and
BATNA; insufficient understanding of partner’s
interests, priorities, and BATNA
0Clear understanding of one’s own interests and
options; some assumptions regarding partner’s
interests and options
Clear understanding of one’s own and a partner’s
interests and options; clear strategy and plan for
achieving one’s own negotiation objectives
5. Setting the
Going straight to business; focus on most
obvious issues; no clear agenda
0Clearly stated issues and agenda
Clearly stated prioritized issues and agenda;
indication of interests and objectives; first
attempts to build a positive relationship
6. Making the
First offer not ambitious or assertive enough;
anchor too extreme with insufficient adjustment
so that it hinders the negotiation progress
0First offer calibrated and made appropriately or
an appropriate counteroffer
Assertive and confident presentation of an
ambitious first offer, which is well justified and
defended; effective in debiasing the anchoring
effect if the counterpart makes the first offer
Too large concessions without a clear plan; lack
of adjustment that eventually leads to a deadlock
0Planned concessions made based on reciprocal
information-sharing activities and possibility for
Strong control over the timing and magnitude
of concessions; the ability to elicit concessions
without damaging the relationship
8. Searching for
Issues discussed separately one by one;
inability to differentiate between integrative and
distributive issues; focus on value claiming
Table One (Continued)
18 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
Competency Level Behavioral traits
0Seeking Pareto efficiency; ability to identify
integrative issues and make value-creating
Exploring interests and priorities for all issues
and flexibly bundling issues to exchange the less
important items for the more important ones
Focus on value claiming; making and/or
demanding concessions to reach an agreement;
lack of brainstorming or any other form of joint
0Understanding of both parties’ interests and
active search for potential solutions
Engaging the partner in a collaborative problem-
solving process; brainstorming effectively;
proposing creative options that potentially
enlarge the pool of benefits for all partners
Unable or unwilling to justify one’s own
demands/offers, or justifying them in a self-
0Using certain common knowledge or external
market information as fair standards
Taking partner’s perspective to offer mutually
fair standards to create cooperative problem-
No attempts to look for Pareto improvements
after arriving at a tentative agreement
0Some attempts to look for Pareto improvements
after a tentative agreement has been made
Creating value through Pareto improvements
obtained through additional trade-offs identified
and agreed on after a tentative agreement has
Either too cooperative or too competitive
regardless of the issue type; inability to
differentiate between integrative and distributive
issues and/or cooperative and competitive
Table One (Continued)
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 19
Competency Level Behavioral traits
0Firm on distributive issues, and competitive
under unfavorable conditions or facing tough
opponents; cooperative and flexible on
Ability to recognize and match the strategy
and methods to negotiated issues and partners;
quick behavioral adjustments based on new
information or changes in the situation
Unclear role division among members; lack of
leadership and cooperation in decision-making
0Some role division based on the strengths
of each member; some cooperation in
Clear and complementary role division among
members; each of them contributes fairly to
the progression of the negotiation; decisions
supported by all team members
III. Trust and relationship building
14. Trust and
Inability to build trust and create a working
relationship with negotiation partner; inability to
deal with partner’s negotiation style
0Some attempts to build trust; some
understanding of partner’s negotiation style
Active trust building; deliberate efforts to
improve the quality of the relationship;
understanding of, and the ability to deal with,
partner’s negotiation style
IV. Moral wisdom
Little empathy for partner’s interests; outright
0Some empathy for partner’s interests; avoiding
commission but occasionally accepting omissions
Appropriate level of empathy for partner’s
interests; honest and transparent approach
toward disclosing and withholding information
Table One (Continued)
20 Smolinski and Xiong In Search of Master Negotiators
Application and Discussion
We attended a major international negotiation competition for two
consecutive years and tested the negotiation competency model based
on a slightly modified version of the behavioral indicators set forth in
TableOne. The negotiations were conducted between teams of three
based on an integrative, non-scoreable simulation. The judges used our
evaluation model in their assessments and we interviewed them after
they evaluated the negotiators’ performance. Overall, the judges gave
very encouraging feedback on our model. However, they raised three
critical points related to team performance, adaptability, and ease of use,
which we discuss below.
After testing our model in the competition, we added a competency
for aggregated team performance to the category of negotiation intelli-
gence, making it an integral part of our competency model. We added
this competency both to respond to the increasing need to measure ne-
gotiation performance in team settings and to assess the level of cooper-
ation and communication within teams. If the model is used to evaluate
individuals, this competency is not assessed.
Adaptability to Different Types of Negotiations
Some judges noted that our model is better suited for assessing integra-
tive negotiations than negotiations in which value creation is not possi-
ble. Indeed, the negotiation intelligence category includes competencies
that assess both value claiming and value creation. Therefore, in highly
distributive negotiation simulations, the judges using this model should
adapt the behavioral indicator list, retaining the competencies that are
especially relevant for value claiming and removing those that evaluate
value creation, which is not possible in distributive negotiations.
Ease of Use
Some judges told us that it was difficult to assess over ten competen-
cies in a sixty-minute negotiation. For this reason, we suggest that prior
to assessing a negotiation that is neither lengthy nor complex, judges
may select the competencies that are most applicable to the specific
negotiation to be judged. Moreover, certain competencies for which
the behavioral indicators are more difficult to judge—such as “relation-
ship building” and “moral wisdom”—could be considered as “watch-
out” competencies. Judges may choose to deduct from performance
scores for negative behaviors such as outright lying rather than assess
the competencies overall. Thus, judges could focus on more observ-
able behaviors, noting only red flags in their assessment of “watch-out”
Negotiation Journal Summer 2020 21
Professionals in fields as difficult to judge as dance and figure skat-
ing are assessed according to established criteria. Negotiation pedagogy
lacks such standards. We hope that our negotiation competency model
improves the teaching of negotiation by advancing a discussion about
essential skills and behaviors; how to teach them; and how to evaluate
them objectively, consistently, and efficiently. We are convinced that fol-
lowing a uniform set of comprehensive, systematic, and practical stan-
dards facilitates greater focus and innovation in negotiation pedagogy.
We also hope that our model leads to a greater emphasis within nego-
tiation pedagogy on factors such as relationship building and morality
so that students receive training that is comprehensive and multifaceted.
Our model is a work in progress. We hope that others will use the
model in classrooms, trainings, and competitions to determine if it omits
essential competencies or contains redundancies, and how it may other-
wise be improved. In addition to further testing of our model, it would
be useful to develop a self-evaluation tool for negotiators and students
to assess their own skill levels, strengths, and weaknesses. This would
be especially valuable when there is no third-party observer or judge.
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