Strategic adaptability in negotiation: a framework to distinguish strategic adaptable behaviors

Henrike Heunis*, Niels J. Pulles, Ellen Giebels, Bas Kollöffel, Aldis G. Sigurdardottir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – This study aims to propose and evaluate a novel framework of strategic adaptability in dyadic negotiations. The authors define strategic adaptability as a reaction to a cue that leads to shifts between
integrative and distributive strategies. Based on the literature on turning points, phase models and strategic negotiations, the authors developed an initial framework identifying five distinct strategic adaptations.

Design/methodology/approach – To verify the framework, the authors analyzed two negotiation simulations with a diverse set of negotiation students. Negotiations were content-coded, and adaptations were labeled.

Findings – The authors found a consistent pattern across two studies. Overall, 12% (study 1) and 18% (study 2) of all speaking turns were identified as strategic adaptations. The findings empirically confirmed four of their strategic adaptation types: adapt to deadlock, follow adaptation by opponent, adapt to priority of
issue under discussion and adapt to new information on issue. Moreover, findings of this study revealed two new types of strategic adaptability: delayed adaptation to opponent and adapt to understand opponent. Study 2 additionally revealed that strategies vary with the negotiation phase, and negotiation outcome seems to benefit more from the constellation rather than the frequency of adaptations. Furthermore, lower-scoring negotiators tended to adapt to the opponent’s strategy instead of initiating a change in strategy.

Originality/value – The findings of this study provide preliminary insights into how strategic adaptations unfold. These findings present future research opportunities to further test the framework’s robustness, increase the knowledge of individual and cultural factors, explore the relationship with
negotiation outcomes and develop educational interventions to enhance strategic adaptability.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalInternational journal of conflict management
Early online date1 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 1 Aug 2023


  • Strategic adaptability
  • Negotiation skill
  • Framework
  • Negotiation process
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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