Conflict Styles: Three Ways People Negotiate During Real Estate Negotiations
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Negotiating Brings out the best / worst in people

We all know that buying or selling real estate is an emotionally charged affair! So, why do people react differently during negotiations? One answer is their preferred style for dealing with conflict, called conflict styles or modes. There are three general conflict styles: Collaborating, Competing, and Avoiding styles.

Why know about this? As real estate professionals, understanding your clients’ seemingly illogical behavior is a pathway to closing the deal.

A few examples help illustrate:

Example 1. A seemingly motivated seller is angry after they get a low-ball offer.

Example 2. A buyer loves the home, but is avoiding your calls after the seller counteroffers.

These examples help illustrate the competing and avoiding conflict styles.

Conflict and negotiation

These concepts help real estate professionals close more deals.

Conflict is a discord or barrier that two interdependent people communicate to each other.  These barriers often present a challenge to communication. The parties are interdependent because they both care about the house!

Conflict styles are the preferred ways that an individual uses to manage conflict in a given situation (Folger, Poole, & Stutman, 2009). Part of negotiations is understand your client’s conflict style.

Negotiating is a process of managing conflict between parties who have competing interests. The competing interest is the price of the home!

Conflict resolution is the successful end-product of the negotiation process. As an agent, the job many times is to communicate well, navigate negotiations, and conflict resolution, which is signing the deal!

conflict styles

Avoiding: When someone avoids conflict, this means that that they generally care less about the outcome of the conflict or their own needs.  Avoiding a conflict means that the individual selectively weighs the pros and cons of avoiding the conflict versus the importance of negotiating over the home.

Competing: When someone competes during a conflict, they care more about their own needs than the other person's.  Competing means winning, at any price, even if it means losing a buyer.

Collaborating: When someone is collaborative, they seek to balance their own needs with the needs of the other party.  In practical terms, people communicate collaboratively by giving the other side something they want, and take a little less for themselves. This approach is typically the place where people end up for successful conflict resolution, although not always!

How to Work with Conflict Styles

Listen, listen, listen! That is the best advice I can give. We call this active listening. And do this in person, and not while using your phone for god’s sake! Active listening is active because you gain clues of the person’s conflict style based on what they say and do, react and ask good questions like paraphrasing their concerns, and help your client to communicate more collaboratively with other party or agent.

Adolfo J. Garcia, PHD, is a home inspector, a mediator, and a former professor of conflict resolution and communication. He understands the value of good communication, and why it is especially important during real estate transactions. Hire him for your next home inspection…or hire him to lead a communication workshop for your real estate company.


Dahl, R. A. (1968). Power. In International encyclopedia of the social sciences (Vol. 12). Old Tappan, NJ: Macmillan.

Folger, J. P., Poole, M. S., & Stutman, R. K. (2009). Working through conflict: Strategies for relationships, groups, and organizations. Boston: Pearson Education.

Walther, G. M. (2000). Power imbalances in divorce mediation. American Journal of Family Law, 14(2), 93–101.