The Negotiator Magazine

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Taking Control of the Shadow Negotiation

It doesn't have to be that way. Our research identified strategic levers-we call them power moves, process moves, and appreciative moves-that independent contractors and entrepreneurs can use to guide the shadow negotiation. In situations in which the other person sees no compelling reason to negotiate, power moves can help bring him or her to the table. When the dynamics of decision making threaten to overpower the negotiator's voice, process moves can reshape the negotiation's structure. And when talks stall because the other party feels pushed or misunderstandings cloud the real issues, appreciative moves can alter the tone or atmosphere so that a more collaborative exchange is possible. These strategic moves don't guarantee that everyone will walk away winners, but they help get stalled negotiations out of the morass of unspoken power plays.

Power Moves

On the face of it, we often negotiate when we need the other side more the he or she needs us. The prospect, seeing no apparent advantage in negotiating, stalls. Phone calls go unanswered. The meeting you want to set up keeps being postponed or, if it does take place, a two-way conversation never seems to get going.

Such resistance is a natural part of the negotiation process. A proposal will generally be accorded a fair hearing only when the other party believes two things: (1) What is being proposed is of value and (2) his or her own interests will not be met without giving something in return. Willingness to negotiate is, therefore, a confession of mutual need. As a result, a primary objective in the shadow negotiation is fostering the perception of mutual need.

Power moves bring reluctant parties to the table by convincing them that they must negotiate: They will be better of if they do and worse off if they don't. There are three basic power moves you can employ:

Offer incentives. For any negotiation to have a happy outcome for you, the other party has to recognize the benefits that will accrue from the negotiation. These benefits must not only be visible-that is, right there on the table-but they must resonate with the other side's needs.

Creating value and making it visible are key power moves in the shadow negotiation. You can't leave it up to the other party to puzzle through the possibilities. You must make the benefits of your proposal explicit if they are to have any impact on the shadow negotiation. When value disappears, so do influence and bargaining power. If you want a supplier to deal with you, that supplier has to be clear about the advantages.

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