The Role Of Legitimacy In A Negotiation

by drjim on May 19, 2017

If you are going to reach a deal, the other side must have legitimacy

If you are going to reach a deal, the other side must have legitimacy
Image Credit: ITU Pictures

Everybody likes a bit of stability in their lives. As negotiators we enjoy having some stability in our negotiations no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. However, we can run into problems when manifestations of control slide into a negotiation and end up stifling innovation, repressing new ideas, and in some cases causing blind obedience to an external authority.

The Role Of Authority In Negotiations

Authority in a negotiation can take on many different forms. One form is formal authority. This generally shows up in the form of either a superior or a boss who is in charge based on their ranking in the company’s overall organization. These people have been granted a “territory” by the company and are expected to setup negotiation norms and make decisions that will then have to be implemented by others. These people display their power in a number of different ways that can include titles or where their office is located or how big their office is.

During a negotiation, the power of legitimacy can take on different forms. These can take many different shapes including forms, price tags, and official looking documents. The fact that these items look like they are official and they have an air of legitimacy, allows them to shape our behavior. They will ultimately have an impact on the decision making that we make during the negotiations.

When we encounter things that have an air of legitimacy to them, we tend to react to them in a “knee jerk” fashion. We are all too often willing to view things that appear to be formal to us as being legitimate even though the reason that they were originally created has long since gone away. They may not have any current validity and they probably don’t relate to our current set of circumstances. Despite all of that, all too often we allow these things to change our way of thinking and have an influence on the choices that we make.

Dealing With The Herd Instinct

When it comes time to make a decision, all too often we have an unconscious impulse to “follow the crowd”. I’d like to say that this is something that is easy to overcome; however, it appears that this desire to do what everyone else is doing is deeply rooted in all of us. The thinking is that our willingness to go along with what everyone else is doing comes from back in the day when it was important to the survival of our species. We are also very sensitive to how others will react to our actions. All of this might explain why we feel the need to conform to what everyone else is doing.

One key way that the herd instinct can show up in our lives is when we are dealing with material that has been printed. For some reason, when we encounter something that has been printed we give it additional authority and we allow it to influence our behavior. As negotiators we need to realize this when we are trying to influence the other side of the table. Their faith in the printed word can play nicely into our hands.

One characteristic of the herd instinct is that people really don’t like change. That’s why if during a negotiation you are going to be introducing a novel new idea or a big change, you are going to want to do it gradually. Introduce the new thing in small increments and as you do it, make sure that you provide the other side with supporting material that provides the changes that you are proposing with some form of legitimacy. By doing this you’ll be able to calm the other side and they won’t reject your new idea out-of-hand.

What All Of This Means For You

Legitimacy is what we are all seeking in our lives. We like it when there is stability and we can understand what things really have meaning. However, as negotiators we need to understand that we live in changing times and so we always need to be questioning if something that we are dealing with should still be considered to be legitimate.

Authority comes into a principled negotiation in many different forms. In one form it’s the people who have authority due to their jobs, their title, or their large office. Legitimacy can take on other forms during a negotiation as price tags, formal documents, etc. The herd instinct can also play a role in our decision making. If we go along with everyone else, then we are being part of the heard. Printed material can make it easier to go along with the heard. We need to understand that herds don’t like change, so if we plan on introducing big changes, we need to do it in small increments with legitimacy.

Knowing that the other side will be seeking legitimacy during the negotiation can prepare us to meet their needs. This means that we need to bring prices, printed material, and things that look formal to the negotiation so that the other side can believe what we are telling them. If we get good at doing this, then our proposals will be viewed as being legitimate and we should be able to get the other side to easily agree to them.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: When you see something during a negotiation that appears legitimate, what should your first reaction be?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Risk is a funny thing. A lot of us would like to be able to live a life that was filled with certainty. We’d like to know what was going to happen today as well as tomorrow. However, as we all know, life really doesn’t work that way. We understand the simple truth that everything changes. Anything that we have today can go away. Life truly is fleeting. All of our lives involve some amount of risk. Are you comfortable with the amount of risk that is in your life?

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You always need to be checking on what power is available in a negotiation

You always need to be checking on what power is available in a negotiation

Image Credit: Andy Armstrong

What do you need to do before a negotiation formally starts? Well, there are actually a number of different things that you should be doing, but one of the most important is to take a careful inventory of all of the “power assets” that will be potentially available to both sides during the negotiation. The reason for doing this is because it will help to increase your confidence going into the negotiation and it will also permit you to adjust both the preferences and the expectations of the other side of the table no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. Power is always there during a negotiation, you just need to be able to determine where it is going to be coming from.

It’s All About Competition

One of the things that is all too easy to overlook during a negotiation is the simple fact that every negotiation is a game of exploration that allows you to discover and learn things that can then lead to you making changes to your behavior and your expectations for the negotiations. Competition is at the core of much of what we do during a negotiation. If we can generate completion among multiple parties for something that we have, then all of a sudden the value of that thing has just increased.

One of the things that we need to realize when we are dealing with someone who has something to sell is that they probably need us more than we need them. They realize that if we get up and leave the negotiations without making a purchase from them, then there is a very good chance that we’ll be going down the street and striking a deal with someone else who offers effectively the same product. One of the reasons that the other side is so very aware of this is because who else would know more about their competition?

If, on the other hand you are the one who has something to sell, then you’ve got your work cut out for you. It is going to be your responsibility to go out there and do your best to generate as many potential customers as you can. There is no one way to do this, but rather many different ways: advertising, social media, contacts, trade shows, mailing lists, etc. However, since you’ll be competing with other vendors who offer very similar products, you’ll need to take an extra step. What you’ll need to do is to differentiate yourself from everyone else who is doing what you are doing.

The Relationship Between Options And Power

A critical thing for every negotiator to realize is that having the belief that you always have options will provide you with a sense of independence. However, if you find yourself feeling that you have no alternatives then what’s going to happen is that you’ll start to develop feelings of submission and dependence. If you think that you have no options during a negotiation, then you are well on your way towards a deal that will place you in servitude. However, the good news is that in reality you always do have options.

What can you do when you find yourself in a situation where it appears as though the other side has presented you with no options – it’s their way or the highway? The answer is that you need to manufacture your own options. The first step is to determine who else you could be talking with. The person on the other side of the table is not your only option – there have got to be other people out there who would be willing to do a deal with you. If nobody else can provide you with what you need, then perhaps now is the time for you to start to make it yourself. Do you even need the person on the other side of the table? If indeed the party on the other side of the table is the only source for what you need, then they may be in violation of antitrust laws or be acting as a monopoly. These are things that you can bring up in order to motivate them to want to appear to be more reasonable and avoid any investigations of their business practices.

Since sometimes it is the other side of the table that has more power than you do, we always have to keep the concept of a BATNA in mind. What this means is that if you can’t reach an agreement with the other side, you always have to be aware of what your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement is. No, this may not be the path that you want to go down, but it’s an option if you decide that you are just not going to be able to reach an agreement with the other side because they just have too much power.

What All Of This Means For You

Power is one of the key characteristics of any principled negotiation. Who has it, who doesn’t, and how you can get more of it are all important questions. Before your next negotiation starts you need to take the time to evaluate who has what power and who has the ability to get more power during the negotiations.

Competition is what drives a great deal of what will happen during a negotiation. If we are dealing with someone who is selling something, they are highly aware that if we walk away we can probably find someone else who can do a deal with us. If we are selling something, we need to work to get as many potential customers as possible. During the negotiation it will often be all about options. We need to realize that we always have options even if it looks like we don’t. When we find ourselves with limited options, we need to search for other negotiating partners, consider making solutions ourselves, or reminding the other side that if they have a monopoly they may be subject to regulator oversight.

Power is one of those things that we all know exists within a negotiation. No, you can’t see it and there is no way to measure how much of it each side has. However, we, along with everyone else, want more of it. In order to make this happen we need to understand how competition plays out in a negotiation and we need to realize that we will always have options – we just have to know how to look for them…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: When you think that you don’t have any options left, should you call for a break to review your current situation?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Everybody likes a bit of stability in their lives. As negotiators we enjoy having some stability in our negotiations no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. However, we can run into problems when manifestations of control slide into a negotiation and end up stifling innovation, repressing new ideas, and in some cases causing blind obedience to an external authority.

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