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A physicist may define power as the rate at which work is done, emitted, or transferred. Most of us know power as the ability to do something or act in a certain way, especially when our actions may influence the behavior of others or the course of events. Negotiation has the transfer of work element and the means to influence behavior. Position, money, and muscle can provide power in many contests. They can also change the negotiation dynamic in a perspective on negotiation[ix]. Power is different from control; those with control may not need the power of money or muscle, both of which can be blunt instruments. Ultimately, we are concerned when power is asymmetric: when there is a mismatch and the person with less power needs some tactical prowess to reach an agreement that works for them.


A classic example: “Our company can make or break you, so we want you to give us your best price. You can advertise that you do business with us, but we want your pickles at 25 cents per jar.”


If one has power, they will use it. The way to deal with asymmetric relationships is to deflect, redirect, or transfer the power. There are several different ways of dealing with power; the trick is to find the best means of interaction. We can disaggregate the powers of a blunt adversary and find our own, which may take one of six basic forms:
  • Potential power: ideas, innovation, ability, and energy can be a source of power offered in a negotiation.
  • Perceived power: Tsun Su tells us the first Rule of War is deception, but we need not deceive. When you carry an air of power, you become powerful. Indeed, we tend to want confident and knowledgeable people to work with us so that our agreements will yield fruit.
  • Strategic power: the power of having a plan, executing the plan, and considering contingencies.
  • Social power: cueing into peoples’ likes and dislikes and reading those preferences to give them what they need psychologically can carry the negotiation — think of rapport.
  • Kinetic power: position, money, or muscle in motion, when a source of power is deployed and used
  • Tactical power: a knowledge of the tactics in this book chip away at power imbalances. The more forms we cover, the higher the probability of success.

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