Experienced negotiators know that negotiating power is one of the most important factors influencing outcome. Experiments show that negotiators often underestimate and undervalue the strengths they have in dealing with others. Knowing how to assess your strengths and to understand the limits of an opposer’s power is essential to getting ready for any negotiation.
Power may be defined as the ability of one party to control the resources and benefits accruing to the other. To the extent one can control what the other needs, that person holds the balance of power. Our goal in dealing with associates at work is certainly not to control what they need or to take advantage of their weaknesses or constraints.
What we want in relation-based internal negotiations is for each participant to express their viewpoints or proposals in the best way possible without fear of censure or personal criticism. We want each person on the team to present its arguments in a rational, coherent manner. Only in that way will the project or collaborative group emerge from the meeting with better ideas and solutions.
Our contention is that in negotiation, you usually have more power than you think. In developing this thesis we will consider the sources and limitations of bargaining power. We believe that those who walk into a negotiation more confident of their bargaining position will present their positions more assertively and positively. They will also be less averse to taking the risks that go with every negotiation and better prepared for the emotional frustrations that so often surface when people feel strongly about their positions and ideas.
Power in negotiation is not what it appears to be. The other party, like yourself, has constraints on their power that you are unlikely to be aware of. They also have needs exerting pressure on them that they are cognizant of although you are not. In most negotiations you will be far more aware of the pressures on yourself than those of the other side. That’s why you will gain a measure of power by taking the time to discover the pressures and limits on them rather than dwelling on your own constraints.
Both parties in a negotiation have constraints that limit their actions, even when they are strong. These limits may be legal or moral, economic or physical, imagined or real. Whatever the reason, these factors reduce their ability to use all the power they possess.