top of page

Personality (D.O.P.E.): How Might This Affect Your Negotiation and Mediation Skills?

Did you notice my past four blogs were symbolized by birds:

-Dove (Discussion skills),

-Owl (Critical Thinking skills),

-Peacock (recognizing Illusory Superiority) and

-Eagle (independence and neutrality) spelling DOPE.

In this blog, I will bring all of these four together in an instructive, fun and quick personality instrument that goes by the acronym, DOPE (referenced as D.O.P.E.).

Yes, this quick DOPE instrument presents a series of questions and then they catalog your personality in terms of birds.

This year, I have used this exercise in three negotiation and mediation classes. All students agreed that this exercise captured their personality by 90%. Moreover they attested that this personality type affected their negotiation, communication and mediation behaviors.

Background: For four decades, I taught negotiation, mediation, communication and dispute resolution courses focusing on behaviors:


-conflict management,


-negotiation and mediation.

Once an item is referred to as a “behavior” we know that if one wants, one can change or vary. Thus, many mediators and negotiators after recognizing certain behaviors would vary them to become more effective. Maybe a mediator might be a less directive communicator. Maybe a negotiator would become more collaborative. Maybe a discussion moderator would become more questioning and summarizing.

I hesitated for my course to begin discussing personality because so many people believe, “I am who I am and cannot change.”

At the same time, I recognize some of my Negotiation Law Professor Instructors such as Gerald Williams of Brigham Young University Law School has for years used the Myers Briggs Personality Instrument as the first step in his teaching of negotiation.

Eighteen months ago, I was lunching and chatting with a Medical Doctor (his focus happens to be sleep for veterans) Colleague of mine. He persuaded me that most behaviors emanate from personality. Thus, taking a glance at personality in my class beginnings might be helpful. He was right! I was persuaded!

The DOPE Test-Personal Behavior Indicator

The DOPE personality instrument is straightforward. A person responds “Yes” or “No” to approximately 60 statements. They must record how they actually think and feel, not how they thing they should.

Examples of questions include,

-I pride myself in being cautious.

-People think I am a good listener.

-I am a positive thinker.

-I think systematically.

-I see live as helping others.

-I see life as a step by step process.

Here are the straightforward designations of the DOPE 4-Bird Personality Test.

1) Dove

The peaceful and friendly Doves are persons of diplomacy and tact. Overall, they are people-oriented, sympathetic, supportive, and team players. They have good listening skills, pleasant to work with and can be relied upon. They usually find professions as teachers, mentors and social workers. When there are conflicts, they are more likely to avoid confrontation, change, and assertiveness. They will often seek affirmation in what they do. In relating with Doves, be warm and sympathetic. Remember that they are naturally relaxed and slow-paced. Earning their trust might take a while, so be patient.

2) Owl

The wise and analytical Owls are the perfectionist, methodical, determined, well-organized and systematic lot. Their bywords are precision and logic. They provide balance in the workplace because of their perseverance, diligence and penchant for structure. Decision-making can take a tedious and meticulous process, and they can be bullheaded and unbending if logic dictates so. They are also wont to be critical and fault-finding, especially on other people’s ideas. While they are at home with details, they shun risks; so be objective as you present your ideas with concrete facts not personal feelings or opinions. They usually thrive in the field of engineering or accountancy. In relating with Owls, be painstakingly detailed and well-organized as you would support their preoccupation with systematized workplace.

3) Peacock

The showy and cheerful Peacocks embody happiness and optimism. They love to talk, and they prefer the fast chase and spontaneity. Because they are glib talkers filled with enthusiasm, they work well in sales and marketing of ideas. While they are social and fashionable fowls, they are oftentimes inattentive, impatient and manipulative. They are not keen on time management and are inattentive to details. Every so often, they seek recognition in what they do. In relating with Peacocks, try to avoid protracted arguments; instead, focus on rallying behind their ideas and visions to win them over.

4) Eagle

The bold and authoritative Eagles are typically dominant and decisive persons. They are typically thought of as Type-A people. As leaders, they are dynamic, natural achievers and decisive. They are output-oriented who prefer the workplace to be well-structured and fully functional. Because of these traits, they are often on the top of the ladder as CEOs or military officers. Negatively, they can be impatient, manipulative, domineering, compelling and insensitive to other people’s needs. In relating with the Eagle, be sure to argue with facts, not opinions; and, if possible, be supportive of his goals and objectives. Deal in a businesslike and formal manner.

You will note in reading the 4 personality “bird” types that there are valuable attributes to mediators/negotiators in each type of personality. You may also note that according to your present situation, your present job, one type of personality may be more valuable at certain times.

Also, if you have faithfully responded to the questions as I did, you might be surprised. I was. I wanted to be really high in Dove, but it wound up my score was 9 in Dove, 6 in Peacock and 3 in Owl/Eagle. The more I thought about my profession-my jobs, my contracts, the more the second high score in Peacock attributes seem to align with teaching, training, and speech presentations. Since I dabble in local politics, the Peacock attributes also come to play. (I was elected 4x as Neighborhood Commissioner and several terms as President of the neighborhood association + several terms as Condo Association-HOA President.)

The DOPE personality approach is a bit different than the Golden Rule. This approach advises folks to treat people how they wish to be treated.

Is Personality Fixed or Changeable?

A slim majority believe you are born with a personality and that is that. A very strong minority believe that your personality can evolve and can be more of how you would like yourself to be. I go with the latter. The main influencer of personality evolution is experience. I equate experience with wisdom. Wisdom is exactly what mediators, negotiation and arbitrators need.

Most would agree that personality is shaped by genetics and early life experiences. There are five general personality characteristics:




-agreeableness and

-neuroticism (This is a psychological term meaning a tendency to be negative and anxious leading to fear, anger, guilt and loneliness.)

There appear to be three situations that may change the so-called “fixed” personality. One, is trauma; second, life changing events and third, merely growing older becoming more comfortable with ourselves.


So, for us mediators, negotiator and peacemakers we need to focus on our behaviors especially our communication behaviors AND also our personality characteristics. Most of us cannot transform our behaviors or personality, but if we concentrate we can flex both in order to be more effective. So, for example, if you examine the characteristics of the Dove, this is where a peacemaker and mediator would want to be.

The other angle especially if you are a negotiator, you may be one personality type but want to influence another. To do so more effectively, you might want to tweak yours in order to capture the attention of your fellow negotiator.

Good luck!

NOTE: Have you encountered the Box/Circle/Triangle/Squiggle personality type exercise?

-Boxes are hard workers. They look for equal lines and angles.

-Circles are people-pleasers. They don’t like rough edges.

-Triangles are efficient and bottom-line oriented. Focus is on the peak.

-Squiggles are creative. They are always unique.


bottom of page