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power plays

What are Power Plays in Negotiation?

Power plays in a negotiation happen when a person might try to resolve their dispute on the basis of power, or their ability to coerce another party to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. 

Power plays in a negotiation may include such things as imposing costs on the other party or threatening to do so.

Exerting your rights or power in a dispute can be an effective strategy for getting what you (think you) want. For example, a common power play in negotiation is making the first offer. Power and confidence result in better outcomes because they lead negotiators to make the first offer. Initial offers better predict final settlement prices than subsequent concessionary behaviors do.

However, there are many ways to use power plays in negotiation. And attempts to exercise power can backfire. If the other side doesn’t bow to your threat or demands, you may find yourself in a tough financial or legal situation.

In particular, negotiators who feel powerful (whether they actually are or not) are vulnerable to underestimating their counterparts, overlooking the other side’s perspective, and devaluing their concerns. The resentment that creates can cause the less powerful party to react emotionally to your coercive demands, refusing to make concessions even when it would be in his best interest (and yours) to do so.

It’s also worth pointing out that research and real-world evidence have shown that negotiators who explore one another’s interests reach more mutually profitable agreements than those who focus on competing.

Discover how to handle difficult people and challenging conversations in this free special report, Dealing with Difficult People, from Harvard Law School.

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The following items are tagged power plays:

Elements of Negotiation Style: Angela Merkel

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

What is your negotiation style? Some negotiators make a strong impression through bold opening statements and mesmerizing presentations. Others closely observe and gather information before making any decisive moves. Angela Merkel, who chose not to run for reelection in 2021 after nearly 16 years as Germany’s chancellor, has demonstrated the latter type of negotiation style: … Read More 

What is Dispute System Design?

Posted by & filed under Dispute Resolution.

Dispute System Design (DSD) is the process of identifying, designing, employing, and evaluating an effective means of resolving conflicts within an organization. In order to be effective, dispute systems must be thoroughly thought out and carefully constructed. … Read More 

Cross Cultural Communication: Translation and Negotiation

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

In previous international negotiation articles from cross cultural negotiation case studies, we have focused on how international negotiators can avoid cognitive biases and overcome cultural barriers. But how do negotiators dealing with counterparts that speak another language modify their negotiation techniques to accommodate for the lack of a common language? … Read More 

When deals fall apart

Posted by & filed under Dispute Resolution.

For investors and employees of office-space company WeWork, the April 1 news was no joke: Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, WeWork’s dominant shareholder, was reneging on an agreement to buy $3 billion of the company’s stock from them. A longtime financial backer of WeWork, SoftBank had agreed to the purchase as part of a bailout of the … Read More 

Negotiation in the news: Power trip: For New York’s real estate industry, a shocking defeat

Posted by & filed under Leadership Skills.

When negotiators are accustomed to getting their way, they tend to rely on the same tried-and-true bargaining tactics—and fail to notice when they’ll no longer work. That’s the lesson New York City’s real estate industry was forced to absorb in June after the newly Democratic-controlled legislature in Albany announced a landmark deal to strengthen the state’s rent … Read More 

Beating the Odds in Difficult Negotiations

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Sometimes our negotiation goals seem manageable, such as securing an annual raise or reeling in a new client. At other times we shoot for the moon, aiming to change deeply ingrained practices or to get much more from our counterparts than they want to give. When we set high goals, choices about our negotiating behavior … Read More 

Dealing with difficult people— even when you don’t want to

Posted by & filed under Dealing with Difficult People.

In your negotiations, have you ever faced a truly difficult negotiator—someone whose behavior seems designed to provoke, thwart, and annoy you beyond all measure? For some Western leaders these days, the negotiator who best fits that description might be Russian president Vladimir Putin. Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, the Russian leader has seemed … Read More