Maintaining A Position Of Power While Negotiating A Conflict

When you are resolving a conflict, you need to be able to maintain your position of power
When you are resolving a conflict, you need to be able to maintain your position of power
Image Credit: darwin Bell

There are many different types of negotiations that we can engage in. However, one of the most difficult is when we are called on to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to negotiate a conflict. In these situations we are going to be dealing with parties that may be very emotional and they may not be open to using logic and reason to find a way to resolve the issues that are being discussed. When this happens, we are going to have to find ways to maintain both our power and our status in order to keep the negotiations moving in the correct direction. Our goal has to be to encourage the parties that are involved to cooperate with each other instead of competing with each other.

Stop Showing Off Your Power

When you are in a negotiation, you always want to maximize the amount of power that you have. There will be negotiating situations in which you may believe that you have more power than everyone else who is involved in the negotiations. However, you need to realize that power is always relative and you could be mistaken.

What this means for you as a negotiator is that instead of trying to assume a position in which you broadcast to everyone that you have the most power, you need to instead accept that everyone who is involved in the negotiation will have some power and you need to broaden your notion of what constitutes power in the negotiation. As always, in a negotiation resources are often the most obvious source of power. However, taking the time to maintain good relationships, being viewed as an expert, and constructing mutually beneficial agreements can also add to your power base. At the heart of these skills is the ability to influence the interests of others at the table.

Always Take The Time To Prepare To Negotiate

It can be all too easy to think of an upcoming negotiation as being “easy” or something that you have done before. If you allow yourself to become lulled this way, then you may discover yourself in the middle of a negotiation that is clearly not going your way. The world of negotiating is filled with stories of smaller or weaker parties getting the better of larger more established negotiators simply because they took the time to prepare for the negotiation.

When you are preparing for your next negotiation, you need to be especially careful to take the time to identify and understand the weaker party’s vantage point by undertaking the same thorough negotiation preparation and analysis that you would if you were in their position. This advice is equally important while the negotiations are taking place: never assume that you’ve got it made because things can always change on you.

Allow Facts To Drive The Negotiations

When you start a negotiation, you probably have a fairly good idea how you want things to turn out. However, just because you know where you want the negotiations to go does not mean that this gives you a license to try and force the other side to give in to your desired outcome.

Although it may be tempting to threaten the other side if for no other reason than to move things along, it turns out that making threats like “you don’t have any other choices” and rationalizations such as “this option is best for everyone” will only cause other parties to gang up on you and may even prompt revenge. The good news is that you have alternatives to making threats. You can let the data speak for itself. A good idea is to offer an objective rationale for a particular solution, one that your weaker counterparts will have a much easier time accepting.

Always Search For A Middle Ground

When you are negotiating a conflict, you often start out with parties that are far apart in how they view the issues that are being negotiated. You will have to be careful when you find yourself in situations like this. No matter how fair you try to be, your power can work against you in this kind of negotiation and your power may inspire both resentment and suspicion.

You need to understand that when you are participating in a conflict negotiation, you will be perceived as playing a specific role. From this vantage point you should never attempt to convince the other side of something they may never believe. In cases like this, it may turn out to be easier to find someone else to deliver the message. One thing that you can do is to try to identify a neutral party within or outside the negotiation whose interests are aligned with yours. Once you have done this, you can then provide that party with opportunities to voice a rationale for a proposed solution. This can work because parties who are perceived by all sides as legitimate and fair will be the most successful messengers and can greatly increase the odds that your argument will be received and accepted by the other side.

What All Of This Means For You

When you are called on to negotiate a conflict you need to understand what you are getting asked to do. These types of principled negotiations can be especially difficult because of the emotions that are involved. As negotiators we need to understand that in order to be able to resolve a conflict, we are going to have to maintain our position of power. Holding on to power during a conflict negotiation can be especially difficult.

The first thing that you need to realize is that no matter how much power you believe that you have, you need to not show it. Power is a relative thing and everyone will have some of it. No matter how small the conflict may seem at the start, don’t make the mistake of not taking the time to prepare for the negotiation. Although you may know how you want the negotiations to turn out, don’t try to force things. Instead, allow facts to drive the other side to reach the conclusions that you want them to.

Conflict negotiations are difficult negotiations to get right. The emotions that all parties bring to the table make reaching a deal all that much more difficult to do. However, when negotiators understand what they are dealing with and are able to maintain their position of power they will be well suited to achieving the outcomes that will best for them.

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

Question For You: If you find that your power is slipping away during a conflict negotiation, what steps could you take?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – a negotiation is tough work. However, if you want to make things just a little bit more difficult, then you can throw in some conflicts along the way and now you really have your work cut out for you. Negotiators can define conflict resolution as the informal or formal process that two or more parties use to find a peaceful solution to their dispute. These things have to be worked out using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques if you want the negotiation to continue towards a deal. A number of common cognitive and emotional traps, many of them unconscious, can exacerbate conflict and contribute to the need for conflict resolution. How can a negotiator work though conflicts when they arise?