The Strategy in Negotiation: Time, Information and Power

The strategy in a negotiation is fundamental and this is shaped by three major variables known as TIP:

  • Time
  • Information
  • Power

In order to define your strategy, you must know what tactic you are going to use in the negotiation. For example, you must know if you are going to be cooperative or competitive and why. To decide, you must clearly understand how much time, information and power you have. We will look at these factors in more detail in the following chapters, especially power.

TIME:

The element of time is fundamental. As Garry Kasparov said, “the worst enemy of the strategist is the clock. Time trouble … reduces us all to pure reflex and reaction, tactical play. Emotion and instinct cloud our strategic vision when there is no time for proper evaluation”.

Every negotiation has a limited time, and having that time is always an advantage. Be patient and, if you can, save time and manage the negotiating rhythm. You can “buy time”.

For example, if a negotiator calls you tomorrow morning for a meeting and you do not have enough information because you have not been able to prepare, you can suggest meeting him or her in the afternoon instead of the morning to have time to prepare. Here we would say that time is negotiable.

Another example, in a conflict with a union on strike and a management team that applies a policy that is not validated by the unions, time can be negotiated and unions and the company can decide that there will be no strikes for a week and that this new policy will not be applied yet. Here we would also be negotiating time, because when both parties emerge from the conflict, they will be able to sit down to negotiate more calmly.

Good negotiators manage the time factor, control it and adjust their strategy based on it, asking themselves “Do I or do I not have time to reach an agreement?”

INFORMATION:

Information is basic. Information is power. If you get more information, you will be better placed for the negotiation, so collect as much as you can before starting. And during the negotiation, the other negotiator’s questions, answers and attitude will provide invaluable data for your strategy.

POWER:

With power, you have the ability to get what you want. In a negotiation, you should use it as a means towards your goal. Its essence is established from a position of neutrality: it is neither good nor bad; it is neither moral nor immoral; it is neither ethical nor unworthy.

The most beneficial option for your agreements is the source of power in the negotiation. Work out the alternatives and prepare the way for leaving the negotiating table. If you act in this way, you will avoid a bad agreement and make a decent exit.

You can reach power through authority that gives a title or a rank, as happens for example with a recognised and respected professional in a certain sector.

It also empowers you with the prestige gained over the years and the reputation you have acquired through your experience in certain efforts. These profiles bring together what is necessary for legitimate power and authority.

 

TYPES OF POWER

 

1. The power of psychology and perception

To achieve psychological power you have to fulfil a fundamental premise: believe in yourself. Power is based on perception, and it brings something very important in the business world, which is confidence.

Example:

If you have a house in the Swiss Alps at the foot of the ski slopes and you think it is worth one million dollars for being exclusive to other houses, you will sell it better than if you think that your house is worthless because it is poorly located, far from any city.

2. The power of legitimacy

Society has deep respect for everything in print. So take advantage of that fact. The written word, reports, certificates and signs representing organisations are means of bestowing great credibility. 

Example:

Negotiators seem much more capable and overwhelming if they have many degrees and diplomas hanging on their wall. If you negotiate and have many years of experience in a sector, if you publish books, if you are a public speaker and if you are recognised by the media, you are naturally much more legitimate than anyone else.

3. The power of risk

You have to be willing to take risks, which requires courage and common sense. If you do not take risks, the other party will manipulate you and pull you into their own terms.

Example:

An entrepreneur believes that his new product is so good that he dares to let the buyer try it for a month for free

4. The power of commitment

You can apply the technique of commitment to third parties in the main negotiations of life. When you get a murky result, lean on others.

Example:

If a negotiator embarks on a risky project, he does not tell his boss, colleagues or circle of friends “This is important. It is my idea, my project, and if anything goes wrong, I’ll be done for”. The most logical thing to do is to walk around the office or at home and remind everyone of something fundamental to the commitment: “We are a team, let’s go for it!”

5. The power of skill

If you have more information, skill and experience than other people, they will treat you with respect and trust.

Example:

If you contact an architect to reform your home, transforming it into an open space, and  she shows you images of 30 similar projects she has done in recent years, it will inspire confidence.

6. The power of knowledge and of knowing the other’s needs

In negotiations there are two factors that are always haggled over:

  • The subject and the demands, which are publicly disclosed.
  • The other party’s real needs, which are almost never discussed.
7. The power of investment

There is a direct ratio between investment the ability to invest and the will to compromise: nobody suddenly gives up when great effort has gone into the investment.

8. Punishment and the power of reward

If you have the feeling that the other negotiator can help you or make you weaker, you are giving him and advantage and power in the relationship.

Example:

There is a person who has the power to provide you with what you have wanted for a long time. If your goal is important, will you treat that person in a special way? You had better do so.

9. The power of identification

Maximum negotiating capacity is achieved when the other participants identify with you; this is a well-known influence technique.

 Example:

In a debate between two politicians, the first has reasonable arguments, but his attitude is despotic and arrogant, while the second is polite and honest, though his platform raises doubts. The voters will choose the second, because nobody can stand the first.

10. The power of morality

There are similar rules of ethics and morality in most of the West. We learn them at school or in the family, and we can corroborate them in the social and work environment. The concepts of justice are also very similar.

Therefore, when a legitimate argument is presented to you, it is only natural that you develop it properly.

Example:

A negotiator makes a proposal, saying that it would be immoral to act differently. She will persuade us to follow his idea if we really believe that it may be immoral to act differently.

11. The power of precedent

Now pay close attention: it is not a good idea to turn your limited experience into universal truths. Do you want to know why?

Conformism is a dangerous habit, because it creates patterns that are used for everything forever. If you take this stance, it is easy and comfortable. It is part of the power of precedent, which is based on resignation and acceptance: we have always done it this way.

Example:

A group of computer scientists stops working to protest wages. The news reaches the logistics department, which decides to act in the same way. If you want to control this situation, you must show that each group has different conditions.

12. The power of persistence

In negotiations, some negotiators are usually not very persistent. They make our offer to the other party and, if it is not accepted immediately, they give up and move on to another topic.

If you also tend to do so, I recommend that you change and learn to insist. Since we are not used to people insisting, it is easy for the other negotiator to let himself be persuaded.

13. The power of persuasion

Our society is too rational. We believe that logic is the right path, and yet it rarely influences people. What’s more, in most cases it doesn’t work. If you want to convince someone, in general terms, you must trust in these three factors:

  • Explain yourself clearly so that the other negotiator understands you perfectly. Your reasoning should be tailored to the listener’s experiences and personal style; after all, you have to access his world to convince him.
  • Your arguments must be evident and emphatic, so the other party does not hesitate at any time.
  • Engage thoroughly so the other person believes that your offer will satisfy their needs and desires. This is the most important section, because even if your evidence is conclusive, any insignificant detail can stop the negotiation.
14. The power of attitude

Who is the person for whom you negotiate the worst? Yourself. You may wonder how it is possible that you negotiate better for other people than for yourself, but the answer is simple: you take any exchange in which you are involved too seriously.

You worry too much about yourself and cause stress and tension. When you negotiate for someone else, you are usually much calmer and more objective.

But rest assured, this exaggerated concern is common to all of us when we get involved in a situation involving responsibility and commitment. To suffer less from these annoying inconveniences that unfortunately affect almost all of us, try to take distance and some perspective. Do it the best you can and, if it doesn’t go as well as you expected, don’t sink or transfer the stress to your personal environment, because otherwise you will harm your health and those who love you will suffer too.

Strengthen the attitude of responsibility in what you do, but never overdo it. Remember that the most important thing is you. Keep in mind that creating a relaxed and professional personality for negotiations will bring you three work-related and personal benefits:

  • It will increase your energy, because you will be doing things that you enjoy. For example, if you feel exhausted at work, go for a run or play after you leave for the day.
  • Your tension will decrease and the tendency to hypertension will decrease. Consequently, your physical condition will improve and your life will take a more pleasant course.
  • Your results will improve, because your attitude will channel the feeling that you are in control of your own life.
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