Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Power of ‘Power’ in Negotiations

In the book You can Negotiate Anything, Herb Cohen describes Power, Time and Information as key elements in any negotiation.

Describing the variable of 'power', he goes on explaining various dimensions (mentioned below) which, if understood and used well, can make you come out as a winner in any negotiation. Here is an excerpt of that.

1. Power of competetion: The author suggests that you should create competition for something you possess. Never enter a negotiation without options because if you do, the other side will treat you lightly.

2. Power of legitimacy: Legitimacy is very strong in our society. Tapping in on its power can certainly give headway. The author gives a tip that use power of legitimacy when it’s for your advantageous to do so and at the same time, challenge its power, when it’s advantageous to do so.

3. Power of risk taking: Risk taking is a must during negotiations. Mix courage with common sense and take calculated risks. But, before taking a risk, calculate the odds to determine whether the potential benefits are worth the possible cost of failure. Never take a risk out of pride, impatience or a desire to get it over with. When stakes are higher, consider sharing or syndicating the risks.

4. Power of commitment: Get a commitment of large number of people because this way you put yourself in a position to exploit a favorable opportunity.

5. Power of expertise: Establish your background and credentials early in the confrontation. That way, your statements may not even be challenged. Prepare ahead of time. But don’t be pretentious. Ask intelligent questions and know whether you are getting accurate answers.

6. Power of knowledge of “needs”: Everybody’s needs are different. What people say they want (their demands) may not be what will actually satisfy their needs. As Herb Cohen has reiterated, to successfully interact with any individual in any setup, determine his or her needs and then fulfill them.

7. Power of investment: It is important to get the other person invest time, money or energy in a situation. It’s the key factor in making an ultimatum work. At the beginning of every encounter, you should approach people collaboratively. If you want to become competitive, be that only at the end, after the other side has made an investment. The extent of an investment and willingness to compromise are directly proportional. The author gives a tip stating that: if you have something difficult to negotiate, cope with it at the end of a negotiation, after the other side has made a hefty expenditure of energy and substantial time investment.

8. Power of rewarding or punishing: Yours as well as other side’s perception about a person, situation or object play a very vital role in negotiations. Don’t eliminate options and reduce the other side’s stress unless you receive something for something. Let them wonder until you have received what you are shooting for.

9. Power of identification: Get others to identify with you. The power of identification exists in all interpersonal relationships including business transactions and politics. Identification, whether with or against, plays a big factor in negotiations and decision makings. Therefore, behave decently and try to help others.

10. Power of precedent: Use the power of precedence to your advantage. To justify what you’re doing or asking for, always refer to other situations similar to the one you’re currently in, where you or others did so-and-so, and the result you wanted occurred.

11. Power of persistence: Be persistent enough while negotiating. You must be tenacious. Persistence pays off.

12. Power of persuasive capacity: If you want to convince people, show the immediate relevance and value of what you are saying in terms of meeting their needs and desires.

13. Power of attitude: Try to regard all situations and encounters as a game, says the author. Do your best, but don’t fall apart if everything doesn’t pan out as you’d like it to. If you develop this healthy attitude towards all negotiations, there will be many benefits like: a) you will have more energy, b) you will be under reduced stress and c) you will get better results, because your attitude will convey your feeling of power and mastery of your life.

In my coming blog posts, I will also put up information about the other two elements (time and information) in negotiations.

Till then, happy reading!


  1. Hi Radha,
    I have read this book and refer this book to all my friends and participants, as a must read for "Negotiation Skills".
    I am impressed by the summary and well crisp pointers articulated by you.
    This is a must read for all thos who wish to get introduced to the wonderful art of Negotiation.
    Looking ahead for other topics...Till then happy writing.

  2. Dear Radha,
    I concur with your observations about the power of risk-taking, which I what lead me to write The Power of Risk. You may find it of interest:
    Keep up the good work.
    Fly Boldly,
    Jim McCormick

  3. @Manoj: Thanks! This really is a fantastic book and that's why I thought of putting together this summary to give an idea about it to the readers.
    @Jim: Thanks for sharing the link. Yes, I have read 'The Power of Risk Taking'. It's a fascinating read.

  4. Hi Radha,

    I was also an avid reader of HBR and other Mgmt books which primarily focus on different business aspect. Having worked for sometime in the industry now I feel a major aspect which these articles do not address is the personality type. In my opnion the implementation of all these ideas is primarily governed by personality types.

    Hope you agree


  5. @Vandy: I absolutely agree with you. Afterall, we are talking about humans here :) and therefore personality type plays a very important role in any type of negotiations.