“Negotiations – Integrative Versus Distributive – The Value Of Its Benefits” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“In negotiations, the spoils go to the victor. Or is it, the victor is spoiled. The negotiation style used determines that.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Negotiations – Integrative Versus Distributive –

The Value Of Its Benefits”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

A good negotiator must contemplate his counterpart’s most minor negotiation position. And, he must do so while considering that person’s generalities related to his wants from the negotiation. He must do so by reflecting on the past and looking forward at the same time. That can become the paradox of integrative and distributive bargaining. And, there is value in both. Because the two can become interwoven in a negotiation.  

After acquiring the following information, you will understand the difference between integrative versus distributive negotiations. And you will know when to use either strategy to advance your negotiation efforts.  

Distributive Negotiation Classification

What exactly is distributive negotiation, and what are its characteristics? In distributive bargaining, both parties attempt to maximize their gains at the expense of the other. Thus, negotiators term distributive negotiations as zero-sum or win/lose.

Distributive negotiations tend to be more competitive than integrative ones. Because of that, they can be more intense and plagued by challenges. And that can make them more daunting.

Haggling sessions have become fraught with deceptive maneuvers due to the competitive nature of this negotiation style. Because some negotiators feel they must use any tactic to secure the outcome they seek, depending on the stakes. And they may do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.

My motto is, you’re always negotiating. With a distributive style of bargaining, a negotiator may win in his current situation. Later, he may bear the cost of that win in future opportunities. That is something to consider when contemplating using this form of negotiation.

Integrative Negotiation Classification

By contrast, integrative negotiations consist of a cooperative approach to reaching a happy medium as its outcome. At its base of practice, negotiators exchange information beneficial to the progression of a mutually advantageous negotiation outcome. Negotiators that use this approach to bargaining tend to take a longer view of relationships. They do so because they know they may be negotiating with that entity in the future or someone in that person’s stead.

The one thing that negotiators must be aware of when using this approach is its limits. People are inherently endowed to pursue their best interests. As such, during the give-and-take exchange, one party may withhold information beneficial to the other to achieve a marginal outcome that is better than his counterpart. The thought in him might be, I’m only getting a little more, so that will not hurt anyone.  

Distributive Negotiation


Negotiators that have a stern demeanor find this style of negotiating appealing. They are the ones that want to steamroll their opponent. And based on that person’s negotiation counterpart, that approach may serve the steamroller well.

Some negotiators that negotiate one-off deals may prefer this negotiation style. They believe there will be no future retribution for the stern demeanor used during the negotiation. Be mindful of the future when using this style of negotiation. You will exist in that future someday.  


The goal of this form of negotiating tends to be one-sided. That is due to the aggressive negotiator seeking to gain significantly more than his counterpart from the negotiation. That can create an adverse reaction from the less fierce negotiator, or it may cause him to become more aggressive. And that can lead to impasses in the negotiation.

Plus, even if the aggressive negotiator takes the lion’s share of the deal today, he may pay handsomely for his indiscriminate actions later. That might occur when negotiating with someone associated with the less aggressive negotiator who wants the score evened.  

Integrative Negotiation


In integrative negotiations, each negotiator considers the outcomes sought by the other negotiator. They do so as partners creating value for the other, even though they are on opposing sides.  

Neither negotiator attempts to use unnecessary impediments to stifle the other. That can make the current negotiation process flow more freely.

Integrative negotiations also create a less intense environment in which to negotiate. And a spill-over-benefit from that is, it can enhance long-term relationships. That can make future negotiations between these partners more manageable.


If you are negotiating with a negotiator with the mindset that the only way for him to win is for you to lose, caution would be the word for you. Integrative negotiations strive for win-win outcomes. Thus, if engaging in this negotiation form does not deliver the perception of that outcome, it becomes a disincentive to use this approach. Suffice it to say; if the opposing negotiator is reluctant about striving for a win-win outcome, you must be prepared to use a distributive negotiation style.


So, which form of negotiation should you use, integrative or distributive? There will always be a tradeoff between the information you disclose and the benefits of doing so in negotiations. And that is the hallmark that notes the difference between the two styles of negotiation. The amount you reveal to obtain gains will be your point of decision.

The answer to the negotiation style you should use, integrative or distributive, is that it depends. Meaning, you must consider the method your counterpart will use. And it would be to your benefit to be adaptable to either at a moment’s indication.  

Since you now know the difference between integrative and distributive negotiations, you can use either. Just be mindful of the benefits and drawbacks of both. The one you choose, or the blending of the two, will be based on your strategy for the negotiation, which will determine the negotiation outcome. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/blog

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