Negotiating in Life , Negotiation Strategies , Business Negotiation October 20, 2010

Negotiating: Building personal power and bargaining power

Personal power may help you attain leadership positions, and propel your career forward. Bargaining power will help your cause during a negotiation...

Personal power may help you attain leadership positions, and propel your career forward. Bargaining power will help your cause during a negotiation. Although they are both different types of power with different applications, there is some intersection. We could argue that the more personally powerful you are, the more bargaining power you are likely to have.

In his book, In Business As In Life—You Don’t Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate, Dr. Chester L. Karrass provides a list of ten simple things you can do to increase your bargaining power. Some of these things are:

  1. Set the stage for a “yes” answer

  2. Take notes about what is said and agreed to

  3. To be successful, learn to dress two or three levels higher than you are

  4. Don’t go into the negotiation alone

  5. Rehearse

  6. Search for second choice options prior to the talks

  7. Be ready to walk away from the negotiation


It seems that bargaining power not only derives from preparation, but also from creating the appearance of power. The more powerful you appear to be (notice you should dress as if you are powerful), the more power the other party will assume you have. Obviously, if you build you actual personal power, the less you will have to work at appearing to be powerful.

How do you build personal power? According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a leadership expert, writing in the Harvard Business Review blog, there are six actions you can take to help build your power.  This is Kanter’s list:

  • Be a good colleague

  • Help others to the top (be a connector)

  • Be a giver of resources (especially unexpected resources)

  • Identify and try to resolve new and upcoming issues

  • Show strong commitment

  • Be active in external efforts like nonprofit boards


Going out of your way and showing others what you are capable of creates a powerful impression.

How do you build your power? How has a powerful position helped you at the negotiating table?
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