When you play with power you need to be very, very careful

When you play with power you need to be very, very careful

Image Credit: larryfishkorn

Who gets what out of a negotiation is often determined not by what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used but rather by who has the most power. This is actually sort of an amusing thing because of the very nature of power – we can’t see it, we don’t know who has it and who does not, and it can flow from one person to another very quickly. What all of this means for us as negotiators is that we need to take the time to understand how power works in a negotiation and, more importantly, how we can make it work for us.

Power Is All About Perception

Since we can’t see power, both sides of the negotiating table are going to be spending their time trying to guess just exactly how much power the other side really has. What this means for you is that the amount of power that you really have during a negotiation comes down to just exactly how much power the other side thinks that you have. If they believe that you have the power to determine if they’ll leave the negotiating table happy or unhappy, then you really do wield the power to determine how this negotiation turns out.

The good news for you is that the other side views your negotiating strength based on what is currently going on in their heads. What this means for you is that if they are thinking the right thoughts, then you really don’t need to have a strong position in order to do well in your next negotiation as long as the other side thinks that you have one – it turns out that everything is subjective.

The other side is always going to be “running the numbers” trying to determine if their probable cost of rejection currently is greater than their possible cost of acceptance. If it turns out that getting rejected is more expensive than getting accepted, then they are going to be willing to go along with whatever you have proposed to them. Once again, it all comes down to what the other side believes your power attributes currently are.

Power Does Not Play Sides

It’s sorta funny because as much as we all understand that power plays a big role in determining how a negotiation turns out, many of us shy away from it. It’s almost like “power” is a dirty word to us. The reason that I associate with this kind of behavior is because a number of us have had a bad experience with someone who had power over us at some point in our lives. The end result of all of this is that many of us have become apprehensive when we encounter people who are either seeking power or wielding power.

We need to get over this hang-up. It turns out that our issue is not really with power itself, but rather with how power has been used in our past. The good news about power is that it is both a desirable attribute and, if used correctly, can provide you with a sense of mastery over your life. What we need to realize is that if we reject power and don’t seek it out, then in the absence of power the best that you can hope for is to find yourself in a situation of dependency where what you want will be at the whim of others.

If we take a careful look at power, then what we’ll discover is that power is neutral. This means that it is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. All too often it’s easy to overlook power in a negotiation because it can’t be measured. Many people prefer to not discuss power out of politeness. In the end, what we all need to realize is that power is always in the eyes of the beholder.

What All Of This Means For You

Power is what determines who gets what out of a negotiation. The side that has the most power is in the best position to get what they want out of the negotiations. The funny thing about power is that we can’t actually see it. Power is something that is perceived. This means that you don’t actually have to have power in order to use power.

Since power is all about perception, it’s up you to make sure that the other side believes that you have more power than they do. If they think that you control their ability to leave the principled negotiation either happy or sad, then you have the power. “Power” is not a bad word even though some of us may have bad associations with it because of how we’ve been treated in the past by people who had power. We need to understand that power is neutral – it doesn’t take sides. If you can get more power than the other side, then you’ll have a better chance of getting what you want from the negotiations.

The next time that you enter into a negotiation, you need to be aware of the power that is present at the table. You’ll bring some, the other side will bring the rest. You’ll want to make sure that the other side believes that you have more power than they do. Don’t worry if you don’t think that you do, remember that power is all about perception!

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

Question For You: If you decide that the other side has more power than you do, what can you do to change this?

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

As we prepare for our next negotiation, we go through a mental checklist of all of the things that we need to do. We make sure that we know who we’ll be negotiating with, we make sure that we understand the issues that will be discussed and we know which ones are the most important to our side. We may have even done some background checking on the people on the other side of the table. However, sometimes we forget to do the most important thing of all. This is to stop for a moment, and double check to make sure that we believe in what we are doing.

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The other side knows what you need to know, now how to get them to tell it to you

The other side knows what you need to know, now how to get them to tell it to you
Image Credit: Matus Laslofi

I’m all about doing my homework before I start a negotiation. I’ll have a talk with Google, call up people that the other side of the table have negotiated with in the past, and I’ll study the issues that we’ll be discussing. However, no matter how good of a job that I do in preparing for a negotiation, I fully realize that when the negotiations start, I won’t know everything that I need to know no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques I plan on using.. What this means is that I’m going to have to find some way to get the additional information that I need out of the other side during the negotiation. Exactly how to go about doing this is an art into itself…

Getting Started Getting Information

Information is the key to any successful negotiation. What you need to realize at the start of a negotiation is that you don’t know everything that you need to know. What this means is that as the negotiation starts, you’ve got a job to do. You are going to have to discover ways to get the other side to open up and tell you the things that you need to know. Of course you are going to have to do this in a way that does not reveal to the other side what you are trying to do.

One of the first things that you are going to have to do is to remind yourself that you need to listen to the other side more and talk less. I can only speak for myself, but this can be quite hard to do. You need to understand that everything the other side says comes along with a lot of other things: values, experience, emotions, and expectations. Your goal has to be to uncover the other side’s real objectives for this negotiation. Make sure that you engage in active listening where you lean forward, make eye contact, and smile when it’s appropriate.

The way that you draw information out of the other side is by asking them questions. However, the types of questions that you start out asking will be key. You don’t want to ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”. Instead, you want to ask open-ended questions that are going to cause the other side to stop and think about what they want the answer to be. The purpose of these probing questions is to do two things: reduce the other side’s defensiveness and to gather critical information from them.

Getting The Other Side To Open Up

One of the things that it can be all too easy to overlook in the high pressure world of negotiations is that both sides of the table do have feelings. If you want to get information out of the other side, then you are going to have to take some time ad reflect what they are feeling. What this means is that you are going to have to try to take a look at the current situation through the eyes of the other side. What you want to be able to do is to let them know that you identify with the situation that they now find themselves in.

Before you can resolve the disagreements between the two sides, you are first going to have to make sure that you fully understand what their issues with you are. The best way to go about doing this is to first, take notes so that you can remember what their issues are, and then read your notes back to them. What you want to do here is to get agreement from the other side that your understanding of what has to be solved is the same as their understanding of what you are both going to have to be working on.

The best way to get information from the other side is to let them know that they’ve done something good when they share information with you. What this means is that when they share something with you, you need to express your appreciation for them doing it. This can be as simple as a smile, a nod, or a wink. If they do something that you don’t want them to do, then ignore it. Praise the things that they do that you do want them to do. By encouraging the behavior that you want them to exhibit and discouraging the behavior that you don’t want them to exhibit you’ll gently nudge them towards revealing more to you.

What All Of This Means For You

Hopefully we all understand that it is necessary to prepare for our next principled negotiation. However, what many of us don’t fully understand is that preparing can only be partially done before the negotiations start. No matter how hard we try, there will always be things that only the other side of the table can answer for us. In order to complete our understanding of what we need to know in order to be successful, we’re going to have to get the other side to share information with us.

There are a number of different ways to go about doing this. Perhaps the simplest is to take the time to really listen to what the other side is saying. How they are saying will convey a great deal of information about how they are feeling and what is important to them. Questions are a great way to get the other side to tell you what they are thinking. Just make sure that you ask the right types of questions. Understanding that the other side has feelings and respecting them will go a long way in getting them to open up to you. There will be disagreements between both sides, but you need to make sure that you fully understand them before you start discussions on how to resolve them.

Understanding that the way that we’re going to be able to get the deal that we want out of our next negotiation is by mastering the art of collecting the information that we need from the other side is important. Take the time to understand how you can get the other side to open up to you and you’ll be able to get all of the information that you need. With this information, you’ll get the deal that you want.

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

Question For You: How much time during a negotiation should you spend trying to get information from the other side?

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

Who gets what out of a negotiation is often determined not by what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used but rather by who has the most power. This is actually sort of an amusing thing because of the very nature of power – we can’t see it, we don’t know who has it and who does not, and it can flow from one person to another very quickly. What all of this means for us as negotiators is that we need to take the time to understand how power works in a negotiation and, more importantly, how we can make it work for us.

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