Three Sources Of Power In A Negotiation

Getting what you want out of a negotiation is all about making sure that you have power
Getting what you want out of a negotiation is all about making sure that you have power
Image Credit: Mark Probst

When you walk into a negotiation, you know what you want to use your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to get out of the negotiation. However, just exactly how you are going to make that happen may still be a bit of a mystery. However, in order to get what you want, you need to make sure that you have the power that you need in order to influence the other side to give you what you are looking for. As a negotiator, this means that you are going to have to identify your sources of power and understand how to go about using them.


In every negotiation, you need to realize that the other side may say “no” to you. You could put the best proposal in the world on the table in front of them and for whatever reason, they might take a look at it and say “no”. There isn’t a thing in the world that you can do about this. Except come to the negotiation prepared.

Your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, is often your best source of bargaining power. What this does for you is to allow you to spend some time thinking about what you would do if the other side told you “no”. What options would you have if this occurred? If they say “no”, you’re not going to be stuck. Instead, you are going to have to take another set of actions and your BATNA is what’s going to show you the way. By having a strong outside alternative, you gain the power you need to walk away from an unappealing deal.

It’s All About The Role

Who are you and what are you doing involved in this negotiation? For that matter, who is sitting across from you at the negotiating table and why are they there? Just because someone is involved in a negotiation does not necessarily mean that they really should be there. This is where roles come into play.

Your power as a negotiator can come from a strong role, title, or position, such as a high rank in your organization. Likewise, the person sitting across from you may have a similar role, title, or position. How these sets of roles line up says a lot about who has the power in the negotiations. If you have the greater role, then you are in a stronger position and you can use your increased power to more easily get what you want.

The Power Of Psychology

What’s sorta amazing about power in a negotiation is that it’s not real. What this means is that you can’t touch it, you can’t see it, and your certainly can’t measure it. This means that you really don’t know how much power you have when you are sitting at a negotiating table. You also don’t know how much power the other side has.

The good news here is that you have as much power as you want to have. As a negotiator, you can bring a sense of psychological power to the table—the feeling that you’re powerful, whether or not that’s really the case. This means that anytime you are preparing to enter into a negotiation, you can first take a moment to build up your feeling of power. You can imagine yourself as being all powerful and able to achieve anything that you want prior to the negotiations starting.

What All Of This Means For You

The goal of every principled negotiation is to get what you want from the other side. In order to convince them to go along with what you are asking them to do, you need to have the power to make them see things your way. As negotiators, we’d all like to have more power, but it’s not always clear where the power that we need in a negotiation comes from.

When a negotiation starts, we need to be aware of just exactly we would do if we were not able to reach an agreement with the other side of the table. In the world of negotiating, this understanding is called a best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA. Everyone who participates in a negotiation is there for a reason. Their company or organization believed that they could use their role in order to convince the other side to accept the proposal that they’ve made. This is why it is very important to be aware of everyone’s role so that you can see who has more power. In a negotiation, power is a strange thing. It can’t be seen or touched. This means that if you imagine that you have a lot of power before you go into a negotiation then it turns out that you will have it.

To get what we want in a negotiation requires us to have power. In order to have power, we need to understand where power comes from and how we can get more of it. If we carefully identify our sources of power and then take the time to cultivate and harvest as much power as we can, then we will have improved our chances of being successful in our next negotiation.

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

Question For You: What can you do to reduce the amount of power that the other side has in a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Mutually beneficial agreements are something that is often talked about, but does anyone really understand what is meant by them? Different negotiators view them in different ways. Some believe that a mutually beneficial agreement simply means that both sides have used their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to jump into the negotiation and attempted to get as much of the limited resources being negotiated as they possibly could. It turns out that this thinking is wrong. There is a lot more to mutually beneficial agreements than you might think…