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Personality Matters in Mediation and Negotiation

To fully understand:

  • How conflicts arise and are settled or not;

  • How mediators operate;

  • How parties to a mediation behave;

  • How negotiators proceed;

One must understand personality.

Genesis of Personality

The popular view of how a personality forms is nurture. That is, one is born with a certain personality. There is some truth to this. Some research shows that 30 to 50 percent of the personality may be attributed to genes. The expert view is that personality is a bit of nurture and nature.

Can Personality Be Changed

The popular view is that personality basically does not change. The experts say that personality can be changed but only if there is a concentrated effort. How one stands on the nature/nurture issue may affect whether one thinks personalities can change.

Myers Briggs

The most familiar personality instrument is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which was not even created by psychologists or psychiatrists:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment is one of the world’s most popular personality tools—Used by more than 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies in 115 countries, and available in 29 languages, it has become the go-to framework for people development globally. With more than 70 years of science-based, research-based insight, the MBTI assessment is a robust tool for self-awareness and improvement. It provides positive language for understanding and valuing individual differences. With practical insight that’s easy to understand and implement, the MBTI assessment has helped thousands of organizations and millions of people around the world improve how they communicate, learn, and work.


According to Wikipedia:

DISC assessments are behavioral self-assessment tools based on the 1928 DISC emotional and behavioral theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston. The tools are designed to predict job performance. However, the scientific validity of DISC has been contested and is by some considered to be a pseudoscience.


According to Examined Existence:

DOPE is not a psychological evaluation. The test does not end with an assessment or a diagnosis. It is a self-assessment tool that enables a person to identify his unique and distinctive traits that clarify his personality and innermost being. People think, act, and communicate differently based upon established behavioral patterns. Recognizing these patterns can greatly enrich one’s self-understanding and acceptance. Having attained that, a person learns to appreciate that other people have their distinct personalities, too. It is a good start to adjusting to other people’s behavior and improving interpersonal relationships at home, in school, in the workplace, or within the team.

How Does It Work?

According to Examined Existence:

The DOPE (an acronym that stands for Dove, Owl, Peacock, Eagle) Bird Personality Test is a readily available tool for those who are earnestly interested in self-discovery. The questions are done in a fun yet introspective way. You do not need a psychologist to interpret the questions for you; you will only need to answer each question truthfully. Every answer must come from who you are, not from what you know is correct. To gain meaningful insight, use the tool to discover your inner strengths and positive qualities. Albeit there are much more complicated scientific tools around, the 4-Bird personality test promotes self-assessment, intensifies self-improvement, complements career and personal development, and can be used to improve how we interact with others.

Personality According to Movie Preferences

Everyone has a type of movie that's their go-to when they don't know what to watch. We all joke about a movie being the perfect movie for someone based on their personality. But did you know there is actually some truth to it?

Ezra Werb and Risa Williams, authors of Cinescopes, have conducted research that a person's favorite movies can actually tell you about their personality. You read that right: the type of movies you enjoy are connected to your personality.

Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Movies you might enjoy: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Trek, The Avengers, Interstellar, Jurrasic World


Movies you might enjoy: The Pink Panther, Zoolander, Ted, The Intern, Spy, Pitch Perfect


Movies you might enjoy: Batman Begins, The Bourne Series, Divergent, Mission Impossible, Bond


Movie you might enjoy: Poltergeist, Ouija, Dorian Gray, Sweeney Todd, Texas Chain Saw Massacre


Movies you might enjoy: Dirty Dancing, The Notebook, Age of Adeline, The Fault In Our Stars, Pride & Prejudice

Documentary and History

Movies you might enjoy: March of the Penguins, Citizen Four, Zero Dark Thirty,The Other Boleyn Girl


Movies you might enjoy: Robin Hood: Men In Tights, West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Into the Woods


Movies you might enjoy: Creed, The Godfather, Black Swan, Atonement, Titanic


Movies you might enjoy: Cinderella, Minions, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Hero 6, The Penguins of Madagascar

Recently a group in the District of Columbia took a playful personality instrument based on the types of movies that one prefers. Twenty-two people took this test and agreed with the personality type results.

Personality Defined

Personality refers to the enduring characteristics and behavior that comprise a person’s unique adjustment to life, including major traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities, and emotional patterns. Various theories explain the structure and development of personality in different ways, but all agree that personality helps determine behavior.

Personality Traits

According to Indeed:

Personality traits are characteristics and qualities that help define you as a unique individual. They’re often developed throughout life and may remain consistent across many situations and circumstances.


Openness describes how adventurous, curious or open to new experiences you are. Highly open individuals tend to have a broad range of interests, and those who have a lower degree of openness may prefer consistency, routine and familiarity.


Conscientiousness measures your efficiency and organization. Those who fall higher on this spectrum tend to be task-focused, and those who are less conscientious are often more easily distracted and may enjoy spontaneity and work better under pressure.


This category refers to how outgoing and energetic you are. People who are very extroverted are assertive and sociable, while those who are more introverted may prefer solitary activities and alone time, and need fewer social interactions to feel content.


Agreeableness is your friendliness, ability to show compassion and willingness to help others. Those who fall higher on this personality spectrum tend to be cooperative and polite, and those with less agreeableness are more likely to value rational and critical thinking.


This category—sometimes named by its opposite trait, emotional stability—accounts for your emotional sensitivity and the extent to which you’re inclined to worry or be temperamental. Neurotic people are prone to experiencing negative emotions, and those who are lower on the neuroticism spectrum may be less emotionally reactive and have greater self-confidence.

A Change of Personality Experiment

Most believe if people really want to change their personalities, they can. Most do not have the emotional intelligence or the will to change. Maybe part of the reason is if personality does not change, they can blame their personality and take less accountability.

Writer Olga Khazan decided to try to change her personality. She writes about this in her article, My Personality Transplant-How I Made Myself Less Unpleasant, How to Find Happiness.

Based on her research, she learned that one could mold personality traits. She scored:

  • Very low on extroversion, 24th percentile

  • Very high on conscientiousness and openness and average on”agreeableness”

  • Anxiety was suffocating her. Based on her instrument, she scored in the 94th percentile=”extremely high” on neuroticism.

She decided to behave to be more extroverted and to decrease neuroticism. So she decided to behave in the ways that would change her personality. She would meet new people. She would meditate. She would think more positively about people. She would express gratitude plus anger management classes.

At the conclusion of Olga’s experiment, she decided according to the comparative testing, that she had accomplished incremental changes in the directions that she wanted. She quoted psychologist Carl Rogers: When I accept myself as I am, then I can change.

So, the conclusion is that if one really wants to adjust their personality a bit, this can be accomplished by behaving in those ways.

How Personality Might Impact Mediation and Negotiation: What about the Big 5 Traits?

We tend to have strong intuitions about which personality traits help or hurt us in negotiation, but does research on the topic confirm our hunches? Does personality in negotiation matter?

Before we explore this topic, please answer “True” or “False” in response to the following questions:

1. Extroverted negotiators tend to perform better than introverted negotiators. 2. Agreeable negotiators generally are more successful than disagreeable ones. 3. Conscientiousness matters more than other personality traits in negotiation. 4. Anxious, depressed, and worried negotiators underperform at the bargaining table. 5. A creative personality in negotiation will carry you far.

Introverts Maybe Better Negotiators? Optimism, assertiveness, and a lively, friendly personality are all traits that we know from experience can be powerful assets in negotiation, enabling dealmakers to build bridges, draw out others’ interests, and advocate persuasively on their own behalf.

But in one 1998 experiment, Vanderbilt University professors Bruce Barry and Raymond Friedman found that extroverts achieved less than introverts in a distributive-negotiation simulation in which individuals haggled over the single issue of price. Extroverts would benefit from adopting introverts’ tendency to listen to and absorb what others are saying, for example.

Agreeableness is a Toss-Up: …agreeableness predicts slightly lower outcomes in distributive negotiations, perhaps due to agreeable people’s social concerns, according to Elfenbein. However, agreeableness has shown no effect on outcomes in integrative negotiations where parties can work together to create value.

Conscientousness-maybe no impact? In their 1998 study, Barry and Friedman failed to find a link between conscientiousness and negotiation performance….

Neuroticism-maybe no impact? The sinister-sounding trait neuroticism describes an individual’s general level of anxiety, depression, worry, and insecurity. Those who score high on neuroticism performed similarly to others in Barry and Friedman’s study… However, those scoring high on neuroticism view the negotiation experience more negatively than others do after the fact….

Openness-Helpful in Negotiations: Not surprisingly, negotiators who score high on openness contributed to greater mutual gain in an integrative negotiation in Barry and Friedman’s study, though they did not perform better in a “pie-dividing” negotiation. These imaginative negotiators may be particularly adept at identifying opportunities for value-creating tradeoffs…A creative personality will carry you far in negotiation.



One must recognize that there are various personalities that may have:

  • Caused the conflict in the first place

  • Made the mediation difficult or easy

  • Made the negotiation challenging or effective.

It may be unclear which personality type makes the best problem solver, negotiator, or mediator, but it is clear which behaviors are most effective in problem solving, negotiating, and mediating. Behaviors include:

According to Neil Rackham of the Huthwaite Research Group Limited:

Behaviors of Persuaders and Communicators



Exploration of options and possible outcomes (This means that effective negotiators explore options twice as much as average communicators.)



​Search for common ground



​Focusing on the long term



Concentration on sequence,: issue 1, then 2, etc.



Use of irritators, target words or hot button phrases



Engaging in immediate counterproposals to proposals



Use of defending or spiraling remarks or comments



Behavior Labeling (“Let me ask a question….”)



Behavior Labeling in re disagreeing (Let me disagree)



Testing understanding






Testing understanding and summarizing



Asking questions



Feelings commentary (“I feel confused…..”)



Argument dilution (use of many reasons to support)



Source: “The Behavior of Successful Persuaders,” Neil Rackham, Huthwaite Research Group Limited, Negotiation, Roy Lewicki


Maximum Influence, The 12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion, Kurt W. Mortensen.

Say What You Mean. Get What You Want, A Businessperson’s Guide to Direct Communication, Judith C. Tingley, Ph.D.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. “The first-and still the best book of its kind-to lead you to success.”

How to Negotiate Like a Child-Unleash the Little Monster Within to Get Everything You Want, Bill Adler, Jr., ISBN 0-8144-7294-X

Making Your Case-The Art of Persuading Judges, Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner,, ISBN 978-0-314-18471-9


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