Three Sources Of Power In Every Negotiation

Power is what it takes to get what we want in a negotiation
Power is what it takes to get what we want in a negotiation
Image Credit: Bronson ABbott

So what do you really want to get out of your next negotiation? If you are like most of us, the answer is “the best deal possible”. This all sounds fine and good, but just exactly how does one go about getting the best deal possible during a negotiation? The answer is that if you come to a negotiation with more power than the other side has, your chances of using your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to get what you want out of the negotiation increases. If it’s more power that we want to get, then we had better spend some time studying where power comes from in a negotiation.


When you sit down at the negotiating table, you are there for a reason. The other side has something that you either want or need. Because they have what you want, this gives them some power in the negotiations. Your goal as a negotiator is to realize that they have this power and then take steps to take the power away from them and transfer it over to you.

One way to make this happen is to find ways to not be so dependent on the other side. A great way to make this happen is to make sure that you have a BATNA: Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement. When you have a good BATNA, one that you could live with if you had to, then you will be less dependent on your need to reach a deal with the other side. If the negotiations don’t result in a deal, then you already know what you are going to have to do.

Role Power

So you’ve been asked to participate in this negotiation and so has the other side of the table. What makes you so special that you got picked for this task? For that matter, what makes the other side of the table so special that they got picked to participate? It turns out that just simply by who we are we can bring power with us to the negotiating table.

Everyone sitting at the negotiating table has a job and that job carries with it a title of some sort. Couple this with the role that we are currently filling and all of a sudden each person at the table has a certain amount of control over how things work. Each of us has the ability to exert some control over a wide range of things that can affect the outcome of the negotiation. More often than not, this type of role power has been granted to us via the organizational hierarchy that we are a part of.

Psychological Power

When you sit down to negotiate, you already have a prediction about how you think that the negotiations will turn out. You might be in a happy and upbeat mood and think that things will be going your way today. Or you might be depressed and figure that there is no way that you are going to be successful in this negotiation. The way that you view the negotiation is the source of your psychological power.

The final source of power that we can all bring to a negotiation is psychological power. The great thing about psychological power is that it can provide you with a sense of power even when you are lacking power from other sources. You are in charge of how much psychological power you have. When you are feeling down, you can create a temporary sense of power that will help you to be successful in your negotiation.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to get what we want to achieve in our next principled negotiation, we need to be able to convince the other side to accept our ideas and proposals. In order to cause this to happen, we need to bring power to the negotiations. Where that power comes from and how much of it we have are both critical questions that we need to find the answer to in order to be able to get the deal that we are looking for.

Power can come from many different sources. One such source is our BATNA: Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement. If we realize that although a deal would be nice to achieve, if it doesn’t happen we can still move forward then we will have power. Having a strong BATNA makes us less dependent on the other side of the table. Everyone sitting at the negotiating table plays a role in their company. Each role has its own set of responsibilities. We can get power from the role that has been assigned to us based on what impact we can have on the outcome of the negotiation. Finally, our view of how the negotiations will go can have a big impact on our ability to get the deal that we want. We are in charge of how much psychological power we bring to the negotiating table.

The reason that we are willing to spend the time, energy, and effort that a negotiation takes is because we believe that we can get a good deal. In order to make that happen, we need to show up with the power that it’s going to take to get that deal. As long as we know where our power is going to be coming from, we’ll then be able to tap into it and use it during the negotiation.

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

Question For You: What do you think that you could do to provide yourself with more psychological power during a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I can think of nothing more frustrating than being involved in a negotiation where you just don’t seem to be able to move the discussions to a close no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques you use. You are putting the time, energy, and effort into the negotiations and yet the end point just seems to keep moving farther and farther away from you. When you find yourself in a situation like this, it’s time to take a step back and see if there is some sort of action that you are going to be able to take that will allow you to finally get to the end in this negotiation.

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