Maintaining Your Power in Negotiations

Pursuing integrative strategies at the bargaining table - how you can benefit from a cooperative mindset in negotiations

By on / Conflict Resolution

The pitfalls of a competitive, rather than cooperative, mindset at the bargaining table

Given the pitfalls of having a position of relative power, what is a powerful negotiator to do? By following these steps, you can keep your edge while encouraging cooperative, rather than competitive, behavior and maintain your power in negotiations.


In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.


Encouraging an integrative negotiations mindset

1. Get Off Your Power Pedastal

You may think that you’re on top, but power is in the eye of the beholder.

Accepting this reality often necessitates broadening your notion of what constitutes power.

Resources are often the most obvious source of power, but maintaining good relationships, being viewed as an expert, and constructing mutually beneficial solutions also add to one’s power base.

At the heart of these skills is the ability to influence the interests of others at the table, whether positively or negatively.

Your counterparts may win at the influence game if they recognize that power is multifaceted – and you don’t.

2. Prepare More, Not Less

Stories of less powerful Davids outsmarting formidable Goliaths show up in the news every day.

To avoid becoming the next Goliath, you need to overcome the tendency to view an upcoming negotiation as a no-brainer.

Instead, strive to identify and understand the weaker party’s vantage point by undertaking the same thorough preparation and analysis that you would if you were in his position.

This advice is equally important during the negotiation itself: Never assume that you’ve got it made.

3. Let the Data Speak for Itself

As the more powerful party in negotiation, the worst thing that you can do is to try to force an outcome.

Threats such as “What choice do you have?” and rationalizations such as “This is the best option for everyone” will only incite coalitions against you and prompt revenge.

As an alternative, let the data speak for itself. Offer an objective rationale for a particular solution, one that your weaker counterparts will have a much easier time accepting.

4. Find a “Neutral”

No matter how fair you try to be, your power can work against you in negotiation, inspiring suspicion and resentment.

Rather than trying to convince others of something they may never believe, it might be easier to find someone else to deliver the message.

Try to identify a neutral party within or outside the negotiation whose interests are aligned with yours and then provide that party with opportunities to voice a rationale for a proposed solution. 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.


In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.


Related Article: Maintaining Your Power in Conflict Resolution

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