Negotiators Know That They Need To Know When To Use Power

by drjim on January 15, 2016

Negotiators need to know how to manage the power that they have

Negotiators need to know how to manage the power that they have
Image Credit: Jonathan Haeber

More power. Is that really asking too much? As a negotiator, it sure seems as though all that any of us really wants is more power. If we could get that, so the thinking goes, then we could get the deal that we’re looking for and the world would be a better place. However, it turns out that we might be asking for the wrong thing – what would you do with it if you really got more power?

The Challenges Of Having Too Much Power

Too much power you say? Why that’s never happened to me! Well, maybe. Experienced negotiators are always able to keep their eye on the big picture. What this means is that they realize that no matter how important the current negotiation is, they realize that it’s really just one part of a bigger process. They know that they’ll probably be meeting the other side of the table again at a different negotiation. When this happens they want to have set things up so that they can have the best chance of success not only in this negotiation, but in the next one also.

Once you realize that this won’t be your only encounter with this negotiator, you start to understand that you’ll want to maintain a good working relationship with them. Keep in mind that people move around and so the same person may end up working for a different company or even in a different industry, but you still may meet up with them.

Using this knowledge that this is not the only negotiation that you may be negotiating with this other side, you need to make some decisions. One of these decisions will have to do with how you want to use the power that you have. Yes, you can use some of your power, but because you are keeping an eye on the future, you may not want to use all of the power that you have available to you.

What To Do Once You Have Power

There are actually a number of different reasons why, when you find yourself in a position of power, you may not want to avail yourself of all of the power that you have. If you are willing to not go all the way in order to make exactly the deal that you might want to have happen, you will have set the stage for future negotiations. When that next set of negotiations comes around, you can enter them with additional force to your arguments because you didn’t use it all up in the current round of negotiations.

Another important reason for not using all of the power that you may have at your disposal has to do with your reputation as a negotiator. Remember that the negotiation that you are currently involved in is creating your reputation with the other side. If you choose to not “push them to the wall” and they realize this, then they will have a newfound sense of respect for what you choose to not do. Undoubtedly they will talk with others and you can expect them to say that you are a good negotiator to work with.

We need to understand that in a negotiation, power is never a constant thing. It flows and ebbs during a negotiation. You never know when you might have a need for the other side of the table to say good things about you to someone else. Likewise, if you use your power to the fullest and treat them badly, then there is a good chance that they may talk bad about you behind your back. You may never know that they are doing it, but if you lose business you certainly will see the results!

What All Of This Means For You

Power in a negotiation is a funny thing: we all think that we’d like to have more of it, but having too much of it can be a problem. What we need to do is to keep very careful track of just exactly how much power we actually have and then we need to make sure to manage it correctly.

If we find ourselves in a position of having too much power we are faced with a real problem. If we use all of the power that we now find ourselves with, there is a very good chance that the other side is going to feel forced. The problem with this is that we’ll probably end up negotiating with them again in the future and they will remember how we treated them.

When you find yourself with a great deal of power in a negotiation, it is often a wise decision to not use all of it. Instead, hold back and be reasonable with the other side. What you’ll discover is that they know that you have more power and your willingness to not use all of it will earn their respect. When you meet them in the future they’ll remember this act of kindness. If the roles are reversed, you’ll be thankful that when you had the power you knew enough to hold back…

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

Question For You: When you discover that you have the most power in a negotiation, how can you communicate this to the other side?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I can only speak for myself, but when I’m involved in a negotiation, I’m INVOLVED in a negotiation. Unfortunately, what this means is that my attention is almost completely focused on the issues at hand. I’m keeping track of what both sides have agreed to, where the issues are, what negotiation styles and negotiating techniques are being used and what concessions I’ve already made. What this means is that I find it hard to focus on the big issues. Like if what I’m negotiating for is the wrong thing.

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