The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding

Laws of Power 38: Yield to the Standard

By Karen S. Walch

Much of the strategy about power in classic approaches is developed in ways to use stealth, deception and manipulation.  It is through the battle of wills that wins are accomplished.  This involves all levels of pressure tactics, including personal attacks.  Camouflage, deception, and concealment, for example, have no particular standards or rules to abide by; except to win at all costs.  It is fundamental to prepare for what ever takes to win in a negotiation in the classic approach. This week’s Law will conclude our series on integrative negotiation approaches with a focus on how to use objective criteria versus the battle of wills as a way to increase your power in a negotiation.  This week we will focus on the practices of independent and objective standards that can be used to change the negotiation from a hardball approach to an integrative negotiation process.

One of the most effective tactics in an integrative strategy is to derive power and legitimacy based on standards and criteria founded on objective, independent factors.  The preparation with this integrative negotiation approach involves research on what fair standards can be used to yield to in the negotiation vs. a reliance on manipulation tactics.

An integrative negotiation strategy builds on the notion that negotiation is a process of communication in which the parties aim to influence each other’s perceptions.  Power, in an integrative negotiation approach, lies in the ability to favorably affect a counter part’s decision.

Classic approaches assume that hard ball pressure tactics and even threats of physical force produce results; the ability to make such threats and to apply pressure is the essence of negotiation power. However, as we have addressed throughout the Laws, threats and pressure tactics can be a costly and dangerous way to exert influence in an interdependent personal or professional relationship.

Martin, an account executive, recently reported that he previously held a widespread belief that the best way to start a negotiation was with pressure and an extreme position. His idea was that negotiators should let others know that they are in charge by taking a hard line.

Later, a negotiator could soften their position, if appropriate. However, Martin found that this rarely was the most effective tactic. He discovered that the more extreme the opening positions were, and the smaller the concessions, the more time and effort it often took to move toward agreement.

Martin’s experience was that when each side tried to use force to make the other change its position, anger and resentment was the result.

This put stress and strain on the relationships with his customers.  One of the recent negotiation goals he set for himself was to practice influencing his clients to develop and yield to objective criteria as a way to get away from pressure tactics against one another.  He believed that in the past it was a mistake to try to use force or threats with his clients before he had at least practiced some of the integrative ways to influence others.

In addition to having a good alternative to the negotiation with his customer, Martin researched a list of specific market criteria, precedents, and competitor standards by which he could base his initial offers on.  He found that this allowed him to make a firm and clear first offer.

He found that when he researched the industry standards and competitors that his customers had a history with he was able to be consistent with his customer’s values. He found that he enhanced his customer engagements to be more successful as he and his clients worked jointly to discuss and design an objective criteria and standards of legitimacy they both could agree on.  He found that it was easier to shape proposals and solutions with his clients as they worked to meet these principles of fairness together.

This is an example of how negotiators can increase their levels of power, satisfaction and positive outcomes though minor corrections in their negotiation practice.  Like Martin, negotiators who prepare to apply an integrative negotiation approach find increased opportunities to invent creative solutions to problems as a result.

Third-party criteria can assist the negotiators not to apply pressure against each other, but to find ways to create a fair standard by which to collaborate and work together.  In this way, integrative negotiators find ways to seek “power with” clients as opposed to “power over” a counterpart in a negotiation.

The tactic to use objective criteria as a great way to increase negotiators’ power, authority, legitimacy, and fairness.  By harnessing third party standards, negotiators can focus on objective standards which depersonalize the tactics by removing the subjectivity about a battle from the process.

The more objective and independent, the less subjective the negotiation, the less overt and destructive emotions can be in a negotiation.  Objective criteria can also provide a good faith basis for your offers and anchors, concessions and impulse for cooperation

Law 38 Exercises:

Here are some practical ways to increase your own power by employing ‘fair’ objective criteria and independent standards.

1. What existing market value will support your perception of fairness?  Find your most powerful standards and procedures from the start.  Research standards, procedures, and ‘market’ criteria your counter part may have previously used.

2. How can you use precedents to increase the objectivity of your standard of fairness? Assess whether the negotiation issues surrounding a precedent accurately reflect the factors in your negotiation.  Evaluate whether the circumstances are sufficiently similar to form a legitimate precedent.

3. What way can you use expert and scientific findings to establish levels of fairness? Explore whether there is a third party expert or research report on your negotiation issue.  Evaluate the expertise, accomplishments, knowledge and special qualifications of a third party and how this can impact your counter part’s perception of your expert’s expertise.

Extra Credit

For a download of a strategic guide on using objective criteria see:

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.