Four Rules For Using Power Correctly In A Negotiation

by drjim on July 10, 2015

Power is effective in a negotiation only if you know how to use it

Power is effective in a negotiation only if you know how to use it
Image Credit: John

When it comes to negotiating, power can be a funny thing. Yes, generally speaking the side of the table that has the most power is going to end up getting the best deal out of the negotiations. However, it turns out that it’s not enough to have power in a negotiation – you also have to know how to use it. Very few of us have ever had any instruction in how to do this and so perhaps we should talk about what you should be doing with all of that negotiating power that you find yourself with.

It’s Not All About One Tactic

Power in a negotiation can come from many different sources. For many of us, during one of our past negotiations we discovered some tactic that worked for us – it caused the other side to do what we wanted them to do. Now we like that tactic so much that we have a tendency to try to use in every negotiation that we are involved in.

The problem with this approach is that life simply does not work this way. Instead, no tactic will work correctly in every negotiating situation that you find yourself in. The reality of life is that no matter how similar two negotiations seem to be, there will always be differences. This means that a tactic that worked in one negotiation won’t necessarily work in the next one.

Everyone Is Different

I’m hoping that this is not going to come as a surprise to you, but everyone that you negotiate with is different. Everyone that we negotiate with is different from everyone that we’ve negotiated with in the past. Likewise, every negotiating situation that we enter into is novel and new.

The end result of all of this newness is that before you attempt any negotiation styles or negotiating techniques you are going to want to proceed very carefully. Before you make the decision to use a given technique, make sure that you believe that it’s going to work with the people that you are currently negotiating with.

Ethics Matter

In a negotiation, power has the ability to corrupt even the most ethically minded of us. A power tactic that we’ve mastered may work very, very well. When we discover a technique like this we are tempted to use it every time in order to get the deal that we want.

The problem with this approach is that yes, your power tactic may be effective; however, is it ethical? A number of power tactics border on the edge of actually being unethical in a given negotiation. You need to very carefully take a look at your present situation and make sure that you are not crossing an ethical line.

Watch Out For Countermeasures

In a negotiation, there is a special thrill that runs through all of us when we discover a power tactic that allows us to get our way in a negotiation. We believe that we’ve discovered a magic talisman that we’ll be able to use going forward to get what we want. We might feel just a twinge of sadness for the other side of the table because they are at a disadvantage now.

However, this kind of thinking is just a bit too simplistic. It turns out that there is another side to every power tactic. Yep, that’s right: for every power tactic there exists a countermeasure. If the other side doesn’t know what this countermeasure is, then you are good to go. If they do, then you will be out of luck. In this negotiation, your special power tactic just is not going to be effective.

What All Of This Means For You

Negotiators are always looking for the next power tactic that they are going to be able to use in order to get the deal that they are looking for. These power tactics allow us to quickly achieve our negotiating goals. However, with great power comes great responsibility.

Your power tactic is not going to work in every negotiating situation and people are different and so it’s not going to work with everyone. Additionally, when you are involved in a principled negotiation you are going to have to make sure that your power tactics don’t push you over any ethical boundaries. Finally, you’ll need to be keeping your eyes open to see if the other side has mastered a countermeasure that is going to negate your power tactic.

Negotiations are all about a swirling set of skills and tactics that we bring to the discussion. Power tactics are how we can move the negotiation in the direction that we want it to go. There is no magic here, we need to realize that power tactics come with their own special set of conditions and restrictions. Make sure that you know how to use your power when you enter into your next negotiation!

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

Question For You: Do you think that once you learn a power tactic that you should start to use it in every negotiation that you are involved in?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So how many times has this happened to you: you are involved in a negotiation and things are moving along just fine with lots of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques being used. Then all of a sudden, you come to a point in the discussion where things just seem to grind to a halt. There is a gap between where you are at and where you want to be. There doesn’t seem to be any way for either party to bridge that gap. When this happens to you, it’s time to bring in the crunch technique.

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