It’s much easier to get good agreements when you have the power balance in your favour. However, at some stage you will find yourself in a weak negotiating position. You can see just how skilled a person is as a negotiator if they are able to close a good deal from a weak position.
Here are a few negotiation tips for if you find yourself in this situation:
1. Imagine you are more powerful than you are
A 2018 study by Schaerer, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology included a negotiation experiment with 3 different buyers of a product. One buyer was told they had a strong alternative they could go with, another told they had no alternative to negotiate with, and the third told to imagine that they had a strong alternative.
The result was that those who imagined they had a strong alternative achieved a very close result to those who actually did!
The above study was a simple product transaction with no relationship. But I believe it still has merit in that you should be optimistic in what you ask for. However, you must be realistic too - don’t ask for things that are way outside the bargaining arena or ZOPA (zone of potential agreement). If you do, you’ll likely deadlock the negotiation.
Be optimistic and realistic. You will get a better outcome.
2. Make a pre-emptive strike
Kids are so good at this!
If I tell my girls that we are going to the ‘big shops’, they know there is a kids play area there. They begin structuring my expectations straight away that they want to go to the play area. I then start thinking about scheduling the shopping around going to the play area. But if they had waited until after we completed the shopping before bringing this up, I may not have planned enough time to include this in our trip.
Seek out information and disclose any relevant information early on which in turn may create uncertainty with the other party that you are in fact in a weak position. And most definitely make the first proposal so that you can anchor the negotiation on your end of the bargaining arena. If you are interested in the concept of anchoring there is a stack of great research and info at Harvard Business Review.
3. Passive, Aggressive and Assertive Communication
A fox does not target the unlucky sheep it targets the weakest sheep.
If you have a passive style of communication you could be taken advantage of in a competitive situation or when there is a power imbalance. Alternatively, an aggressive style can derail the discussion and break down trust and relationship.
Be assertive. Negotiate with a confident presence and use firm language.
Be soft on the people and hard on the issues.