Tips For Negotiating With Someone Who Is In A Stronger Position Than You

by drjim on November 4, 2016

When the other side has a stronger position, you need to adapt

When the other side has a stronger position, you need to adapt
Image Credit: irene nobrega

I am always up for a fair fight. No matter if I’m watching a UFC match on TV or if I’m getting ready to go into my next negotiation, as long as the opponents are evenly matched, it’s really anyone’s fight no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are used. However, as I’m sure that you are aware of, all too often when we start a negotiation it’s not a fair fight – the other side is starting out with more power than we have. What’s a negotiator to do?

Getting Started In A Negotiation Where The Other Side Has More Power

I speak from experience when I tell you that one of the most difficult things to do is to start a negotiation when you know that the other side has the upper hand. You really don’t want to be there and you certainly don’t want to be negotiating from a position of weakness. The very first thing that you are going to want to work to accomplish is to get the other side to understand that this is a mixed motive situation. What you want the other side to realize that although you may have your differences, during this negotiation it is both sides trying to come up with a solution to problem that is before you.

Often when a negotiation starts, one side or the other has started things off by stating what the problem to be solved is. The fundamental problem with this is that they will have stated it in terms that they are comfortable with. This may not align with the way that the other side sees the issue. One of the first things that you are going to want to do is to reformulate the issues that are to be negotiated. Your goal has to be to reframe the issue so that it will be possible for both side to find a solution that will satisfy them.

Since the other side is in a more powerful position than you are, you are going to have to approach them very carefully. Your initial overtures to them should show a degree of both humility and respect. You need to acknowledge that they have accomplished a great deal and that this has placed them in a position of power entering this negotiation. Show them due deference and respect and you’ll be able to win them over from the start.

Ways To Bring The Other Side Over To Your Way Of Thinking

Although the other side may have more power in this negotiation than you do, you are going to want to eventually win them over to your way of thinking. This means that you are going to have to spend some time creating bridges between both sides. One way to go about doing this is to make the other side aware that they already have an investment in the outcome of this negotiation. It may simply be the time that they are investing in negotiating with you, or it may run even deeper. No matter, they have decided that they want a given outcome and they are prepared to make an investment to get it.

The last thing that you want to have happen is for the other side to view this negotiation as being a “us vs. them” competition. Instead, you need to make sure that they see that both sides are in this together. In order to pull this off, you are going to have to point out the things that both sides have in common. The more of these that you can bring up, the more similar both sides will start to appear. This will prevent the other side from viewing you as being the “bad guy”.

The deal that both sides reach will have an impact on both of your companies. What you need to do is to get the other side to spend some time thinking about what the impact of the deal that they want will be on your company. Undoubtedly, they have not spent much time thinking about this and if you can get them to do it, then you will have made a breakthrough. One important thing for the other side to consider is what this deal’s impact on your company will mean to their enemies. What can they do to reach a deal with you that will leave you in the best possible position?

What All Of This Means For You

If this was a perfect world, then every time we entered into a principled negotiation, we’d be on equal terms with the other side. Let the best man win! However, it’s not a perfect world and all too often we find ourselves heading into a negotiation where the other side holds more cards than we do. What should we do in this situation?

The outcome of a negotiation has a lot to do with how it all gets started. What this means is that when you are starting a negotiation with someone who is in a more powerful position that you are, you need to take things carefully. The goal is to get the other side to focus on the solution to the problem that both sides are trying to solve. You may have to restate the problem and you should show the other side both humility and respect for their position. In order to move them closer to what you want, you’ll need to make sure that they know that they are invested in the outcome. You’ll have to help them get over their “us vs. them” thinking and have them start to think about how the deal that they want will impact your company.

Playing the role of David when you are negotiating with a Goliath can be a challenge. However, if you understand the negotiating situation that you find yourself in, you can find a way to get the deal that you want. Just make sure that you appreciate the position that the other side is in and show them some respect. The deal that you want will then come naturally.

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

Question For You: What should you do if the other side starts to throw their superior power around?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we start a negotiation, we want things to go our way. The big question that we all wrestle with is just exactly how to make this happen? I believe that a lot of what determines how your next negotiation is going to turn out has to do with how the other side views you. Specifically, what’s your style – what kind of initial assessment are they going to make of you?

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