Power is an integral aspect of all negotiations. Those who have it flaunt it. Those who don't, crave it. But is power all it is built up to be? Yes, it is!
Everyone possesses some form of power. It is not a unique or rare commodity. It exists within each of us. The ability to reach in and drawing upon it in time of crisis is another matter.
People who wind up hospitalized after an operation or accident become astutely aware of their helplessness as they lie waiting for the next onslaught of medical staff to probe, press, check, inject, administer and otherwise subjugate the patient with minimal, if any, feedback on what is happening. Powerless to question, much less manage, what is happening to them, many patients become distraught at the helplessness of their situation. This leads to depression and diminished interest in the outcome. Not a healthy attitude for the patient.
Power is an interesting commodity. It can be blatant or subdued. In a negotiation, power is both fact and illusion. Factual power has to do with money, options and time. The more you have of these three items, the more negotiating strength you have. Illusionary power, on the other hand, is often based in how the other person “sees" or perceives you. Your image is based in part on the reality of the situation and the assumptions the others make about you. You can fuel those assumptions by the way you act, your dress, and your mannerisms. Power is a state of mind; both yours and those around you.
Power does have one salient trait. Having power, being empowered, gives one a sense of purpose, of control. The patient noted above is much more likely to heal quickly if they are empowered by the hospital staff and attending physicians with some knowledge of what is happening and what will be happening next. Even better, if they can be given some control of their destiny through participating in the decisions being made on their behalf they are likely to become involved in the healing process rather than remain detached, albeit ambivalent.
Every doctor knows that it a patient's attitude can make a huge difference in the recovery process. Giving them choices, options and, ergo, power, gives them a vested interest in improving.
When negotiating consider how you can bestow elements of power on the other side by inclusive tactics. No matter how much power you have, you will need the other person to eventually agree to your proposal. The entire negotiating dance is a prelude to getting to ‘yes’. Inclusive strategies that empower the other side in the process goes a long way to achieving an accord.
The author is an assistant editor at How-to-Negotiate.com, a site featuring articles about how sharing of power is required in the dispute settlement process and how people negotiate everything in their daily lives be it personal issues, parenting matters, social conflicts, or business or work related challenges. The site promotes the fact that conflict is a natural aspect of everyone's life and we should all work at improving our ability to negotiate the curves life throws our way.