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The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding


Laws of Power 21: Reengineer Tactics

By Karen S. Walch, Ph.D.

Classic power theorists have long asserted that those who possess power in a negotiation are those who are motivated and able to win in our fiercely competitive limited-resource world. Because of the fundamental structure and reality of fixed time, capital, and property, Machiavellian negotiators believe that the one who claims the largest share of those finite resources wins. It is fundamental that a negotiator develops a strategy and requisite tactics in order to accomplish one’s goals in the struggle for products, benefits, money or time. A manipulation strategy, therefore, justifies the tactical means of duplicity and deception.

This week’s law reviews some of these structural and psychological limitations of classic power strategies and begins our series on the reengineering of negotiation tactics for the 21st century. Globalization and modernization have increased the economic interdependency and interlocking social and psychological interests for 21st century negotiators.

Skilled negotiators today recognize that most negotiations require social engagement skills which combine not only claiming value, but also creating value tactics. Where there is limited time, resources or capital, many negotiators today have expanded the perception of finite resources as a result of their disciplined and creative negotiation skills.

It is classic that many of us think of negotiation as a highly aggressive process. Therefore, negotiators habitually tend to use classic competitive treatment of others in their strategies and tactics. As an educator in the field of negotiation, I am able to observe this on daily basis. Every day someone shares a story about the need to agree with others on how to share or divide limited resources or how to solve problems within the context of business and personal relationships.

Many negotiators recognize that all such situations provide opportunities to negotiate and to develop unique options in order to achieve what they need, but are not sure where to begin. Some do not understand the negotiation process and do not have the skills to manage complex social interactions, and, therefore, default to claiming value as their only strategy.

However, I also detect a significant paradigm shift in the habits to divide or block others from gaining access to resources in negotiation. There has developed a cadre of masterful negotiators who practice the art and science of managing not only similar, but also conflicting interests in a negotiation. Many negotiators today prefer to negotiate and search for an agreement rather than fight openly or avoid interaction with those who utilize classic tactics of domination and fear.

These negotiators can identify classic manipulation tactics and are able to change the game to invent procedures and solutions which uncover many creative options.

This kind of negotiation mastery involves preparation on the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions, as well as the strategic level. Through an exploration of the cultural values, for example, “below the surface,” successful negotiators can influence more effectively through their understanding of fundamental values and needs of fellow negotiators.

Examples of intangible needs are: to be treated fairly, to look good and to be respected for one’s beliefs. Masterful negotiators are also those who can say a “positive no” and not be bullied by a predatory negotiator because they have disciplined clarity about their own values, needs, goals and alternatives.

When negotiators develop their Plan B or alternatives, for example, they do not have to accept or accommodate to “have-no-mercy” manipulation tactics. When a Machiavellian negotiator does not get a counterpart to agree to something they would not necessarily ever do, then the leverage in the negotiation shifts to the one who is threatened.

As master negotiators adapt their assumptions about their egoistic self-interests, they reorient themselves toward a more sociocentric assumption about self-interest. These negotiators are motivated to create unique ways to share and coordinate existing resources because it is in their self-interest to do so.

A sociocentric negotiator does not give up on the achievement of one’s own goals for the sake of others, but is committed to the improvement of fairness, outcomes and satisfaction for all parties. However, it is often a difficult challenge to influence counterparts who rely on the classic egoistic notions of negotiation strategy and tactics.

Many negotiators are committed by habit or have had previous success with hardball, manipulation, or predatory negotiation tactics. These tactics are designed to pressure negotiators to do things they would not otherwise do and are most successful when negotiators are not prepared.

For the next several weeks, we will explore several manipulation and predatory tactics and how these tactics lose their leverage when they are met by negotiators who can identify and diffuse these classic devices. Please share with me here negotiation stories of when you use or how your industry uses hardball tactics and when they are effective or have backfired!

Also, send in examples of how you were able to change the game of a potential dirty trick used in a negotiation. In addition, if you have a current situation which appears to be an entrapment game for you, submit any questions you have about how to better prepare for your next move.

Next week, we will begin to prepare for ways to respond to tactics designed to control and dominate your choices in a negotiation. As we begin to reengineer tactics to be in alignment with your overall strategy of creating more value in your negotiations, consider the following action steps.

Law 21 Exercises

1. Design tactical tasks so all parties can get what they want.

2. Use your tactics to expand the resources necessary to meet demands of all sides.

3. Develop tactics that will help you bridge solutions for all parties.

Extra Credit

For more information on the nature of negotiation, read Essentials of Negotiation, 5th edition, by Roy Lewicki, Bruce Barry, and David M. Saunders (McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2010).

48 Laws for 21st Century Global Negotiators: Join Thunderbird Professor Karen S. Walch, Ph.D., as she explores the laws of power for 21st century global negotiators. Each Monday she discusses one law and provides an exercise to identify and enhance individual negotiation power. Go to the main menu for the series.

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