How To Change People’s Behavior During A Negotiation

Negotiating is all about rewards and punishments
Negotiating is all about rewards and punishments
Image Credit: Kate Ter Haar

As I write this article, I read in the paper today that North Korea has broken off communications with the United States. The reason that they stopped talking to us is because the U.S. has been taking actions to cut off North Korea’s leader’s access to international funds which he uses to purchase luxury items. Clearly the actions of the North Korean government are designed to change the behavior of the U.S. government. During a negotiation, do we have the same ability to change the behavior of the other side?

It’s All About Power

Any time we think about what power means to us, we often come away with the belief that during a negotiation, power is what provides us with the ability to compensate, or on the other hand, coerce the other side to do what we want them to do for us no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. The funny thing about power is that it’s not really a tangible thing – you can’t touch it. Instead, power lives inside of everyone’s head and it’s what we think it is.

In order for power to work in a negotiation, both sides have to participate. One side needs to believe that they are either vulnerable to being placed in a disadvantaged position by the other side or being given what they are looking for by that same side. The side that is believed to have either of these two abilities will then be considered to have power relative to the other side.

The most important thing to understand here is that since power is not something that you can touch, we all need to come to the understanding that power is really a relational concept. When we go looking for power, we need to understand that we’re not going to find it belonging to any one person or group. Rather what we’ll discover is that power is really embedded in the social relationship between two different groups.

Power Has A Lot To Do With How You Choose To Use It

A good example of the relationship of power to a negotiation would be if I showed up with a car tire. If the other side found themselves owning a car that only had three tires, then the tire that I had would be very valuable to them. With it, they could drive their car and they could go places. However, if I showed up at the negotiation with my tire and the other side already had four working tires, then the value of my tire would be very little.

One important thing to keep in mind during a negotiation is that there is no such thing as only one reward or one punishment. Instead, we need to understand that there is an entire range of both rewards and punishments that can be doled out during a negotiation. Rewards can run the range from simply making the other side feel better during a negotiation to actually providing them with financial rewards. Likewise, punishments can include such things as damage to a career, financial penalties, or any event that the other side would prefer didn’t happen.

The presence of both rewards and punishments in a negotiation means that behaviors will be affected. The behavior of the other side will be shaped by the explicit and the implicit rewards and punishments that are part of the negotiations. The behavior of the other side will be controlled by the rewards that they are seeking and the punishments that they are trying to avoid. What we need to understand as negotiators is that people’s behavior can be changed by the negotiating system that they are operating under.

What All Of This Means For You

Surprise, surprise – during your next principled negotiation there is a very good chance that the other side will not be doing what you want them to do. In order to get the deal that you are going to want, you are going to have to find a way to get them to change their behavior. Ultimately, this is all going to come down to power.

Power plays a key role in every negotiation. Power is not something that we can see or touch. Instead, power is really part of the social relationship between two different groups. This means that power lives in the heads of both sides of the negotiating table. Power is based on two things: rewards and punishments. The other side will be looking for ways to maximize their rewards while minimizing their punishments. As negotiators we need to understand that our use of power will have an impact on the behavior of the other side.

In order to get the deal that we want out of our next negotiation, we need to understand that power will play a key role. The other side will respond to the rewards that we can offer to them as well as the punishments that we may end up threatening them with. If we understand how these tools work, then we can change the other side’s behavior and steer them towards providing us with the outcome that we are seeking.

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

Question For You: Do you think that you should use more rewards or more punishments during a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we think about what it is going to take for us to be successful in our next negotiation, we often think that what we need to do is to master some more negotiation styles or negotiating techniques. It turns out that this is not the case. Instead, what we need to do is to take a moment and look internally so that we can have a better understanding of what the other side the table is hoping to get out of the negotiations. If we can understand what they want, then we can determine how we can help them to get there. Identification and morality can play a key role in making this happen.

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