Actual power is difficult to assess, so most of us rely on our perception of power. This perception may be based on a previous experience or our lack of planning. Determining the power balance can affect the manner in which you negotiate. If you feel that the power balance is in your favor, you may not take the time to prepare or foster a good working relationship. If you feel the other side is more powerful, you may become discouraged and again not plan sufficiently to fully explore a win-win scenario. Most of the tactical planning for a negotiation is usually done in a moving vehicle—often in a plane or car on the way to the negotiation. Preparation improves our confidence level and our perception of power. What can you do about real power in a negotiation?
There are many misconceptions about the relationship between power and win-win. One author asserts: “When you destroy the guy across the table, that’s negotiating. When you make him thank you for it, that’s POWER!” This position represents the direct opposite of my approach. In a true win-win, both parties meet their underlying needs and the relationship is sustained or improved in the process. Thus, how you negotiate as well as what you negotiate affects the outcome—win-win, win-lose, or lose-lose.