The Role That Identification And Morality Play In Negotiations

Caption: Success in a negotiation is based on both identity and morality
Caption: Success in a negotiation is based on both identity and morality
Image Credit: Herry Lawford

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.


Often times when we sit down to negotiate with someone, we really don’t know them. Sure, we may have done research and talked to other people who have negotiated with them, but we have not had a chance to spend any time with them before this negotiation. This is the time that we want to try to exert what is called “referent power”. In order to make this happen, what we are going to have to do is to try to get the other side to identify with you.

What you are going to want to make happen is to get the other side to understand the situation that you now find yourself in. You are going to want to be broadcasting empathy to them. Ultimately what you are trying to make happen is to get the other side to share both your current feelings and your aspirations. The ability to make this happen is something that we are not born with, it’s a skill that we need to develop.

How we choose to conduct ourselves during a negotiation is what is going to cause the other side to cooperate with us and to show us some respect during the negotiations. The way that you can make this happen is by preparing for the negotiations. You’ll need to ask yourself two questions: what can I either do or say to the other side in order to create a trusting relationship with them? Finally, you need to ask yourself how you can approach the other side during the negotiations so that they will emotionally identify with both you and your position.


I guess that we could all agree that the perfect negotiation would be one where we were negotiating with ourselves. We’d understand where the other side was coming from, what they wanted and the normal set of communication problems would eliminated. Since that’s never going to happen, we’re going to have to hope that the person that we are negotiating with is a lot like us. We’re going to have to hope that they share a similar set of ethical standards and values.

If this is the case, then we’ll always have a final fallback position that we can count on in our negotiations. If it becomes necessary, then we can always ask the other side simply to be fair. If you make a request like this, then you are going to have to be careful about how you actually state it. You are going to have to be humble when you make your request for fairness. When people receive a request like this, they generally respond positively.

This tactic goes by a number of different names, but one of the most popular is “the surrender tactic”. What you are basically telling the other side is that you are going to allow them to determine the type of deal that they are going to be willing to present to you. They need to understand that they are now in a more powerful position; however, with that power comes a great deal of responsibility to not abuse it. They will find that their options are now somewhat limited and they will be forced to provide you with a deal that you can live with.

What All Of This Means For You

In your next negotiation, the only way that you are going to be successful is to get the other side to agree to what you are asking them to do. There are a lot of different ways to go about doing this, but connecting with the other side using identification and relying on the other side’s morality can both play a role.

In order to get the other side to agree to the proposals that you are making, you are going to have to get them to see the world the way that you do. This means that you need to use “referent power” to try to get the other side to identify with you. If you find yourself in a position where you don’t appear to have any way out, you need to realize that you have another option. You can simply appeal to the other side’s sense of fairness. More often than not, this works out for you.

The good thing about any negotiation is that you have a number of different ways that you can use to reach where you want to get to. Connecting with the other side and using their sense of fairness are just two of the ways that are available to you. In your next negotiation, keep in mind that you have these options and then go ahead and use them when the time is right!

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

Question For You: What should you do if the other side does not seem to be acting fairly?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we think about negotiating, we often picture it happening in a business setting. On the table before us are things such a prices, delivery dates, and quantities. However, it turns out that we use our principled negotiation styles and negotiating techniques all the time and not always at work. As parents, we spend a great deal of time negotiating with one tough customer: our children. This type of negotiating requires special techniques in order to get the outcome that we want.