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.
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