Power. Everyone wants it. Or at least we’re conditioned to crave it. To worship at its altar. From politics to finance to office (or even schoolyard) dynamics, everyone seems to seek it. Heck, our entertainment industry has us cheering on anti-heroes who lust for power at any cost. Yet what is power? How do we define it? How do we get it? How do we use if effectively? Sadly, there is too little thought given to these questions. We often buy into a misguided sense of what it means to have, hold or exert power. I’d like to debunk some of those misconceptions and reframe how you look at power so you can come to the bargaining table to increase your power in constructive ways.
Power Over vs Power With
When you first think of power, what comes to mind? We’ve been taught to view power as power over others versus power with. This is not surprising in a world where we have been increasingly conditioned to define success based on a competitive, masculine model. In fact, the Miriam-Webster dictionary defines power as: “possession of control, authority or influence over others” – as if we own control over others.
It’s an important distinction to make. When we seek to exert power over others, we miss out on valuable opportunities to find creative solutions that better benefit all. By contrast, when we bring empathy to the table, truly seeking to understand and meet the needs of others, seeking to find power together (i.e. power with others) we can secure better outcomes, better buy-in, better relationships, and longer-lasting agreements.
What power levers can you bring to the table for better outcomes? How can you increase your power in constructive ways?
Power of Purpose
Let’s start with the Power of Purpose. When you tap into your innate gift and use it for the purpose it was intended, you wield tremendous personal power and the ability to effect profound change and influence in the world. Whenever you approach a negotiation, I invite you to ground yourself in a sense of your deeper purpose and show up from that place.
Power of Collaboration
Added to that, when you show up recognizing the power of collaboration, you open yourself and your negotiating counterpart to opportunities for better outcomes than either would have achieved on their own. The power of multiple brains, working together, firing ideas off each other, inspiring each other to greater heights is a tremendous advantage in finding best outcomes.
Power of Service
Taking collaboration one step further, there can be much power in coming from a mindset of service. In other words, when you can release ego, and seek to serve others, it changes how you show up and with it, the dynamic of a negotiation. While it may seem counter-intuitive, when you approach your negotiations (and life) from a place of service to others, ironically, you’re more likely to get more for yourself in the process.
Power of Proximity
Always be mindful of the power of proximity. Curate your ‘inner circle’. When you surround yourself with people who inspire, lift you up, and encourage you to be the best version of yourself, you will step into a more powerful version of yourself. Likewise, try to cull those in your life who sabotage your confidence, create drama or otherwise drag you down. Our best outcomes depend in part on the people we choose to connect with.
Your mindset can either give you great power or take it away. Check in with yourself to determine if you seek your sense of value and worth externally or if you own it internally. When you seek validation externally, you give away your power. Practice unconditional self-love so you can show up in any negotiation from a place of unshakable personal power.
Tied to that, check in whether you come from a scarcity mindset (i.e. there’s a fixed pie and I need to fight to get my piece of it) or an abundance mindset (i.e. we can expand the pie to make it as a big as best serves all).
Power of BATNA
On a more practical note, never under-estimate the power of your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). As part of your preparation process for any negotiation, know what your alternatives are in the event the deal at hand didn’t come together. Knowing this gives you great leverage and/or at least allows you to realistically assess the edges of your resistance point. For more info on BATNA – what it is and how to use it – check out my article, Know Your BATNA Before Bargaining.
Power of High Aspirations & Expectation
Studies suggest that those who set their aspirations high in a negotiation get better outcomes. Be intentional from the outset about setting high goals and anchoring high. Be sure to do the inner work necessary to also believe in your ability to get those higher outcomes. The law of attraction would suggest that your genuine expectation of better outcomes will be more likely to attract those results in the same way that a belief you can’t secure your desired outcome will tank your effectiveness.
Tied to that, check in to see if you suffer from a fear of success. This is the oft-ignored sister to fear of failure. Do you ever find that you hit a certain level of success and then plateau or self-sabotage? At some level, you may fear success and what it means to your current life and relationships. This fear can be a major power suck. Marianne Williamson’s famous quote on this is worth a moment’s reflection:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.”
You can bring more (or less) power to a negotiation depending on what role you show up in. We often make the mistake of assuming that the ‘higher’ title will wield more power. This is not always true. A C.E.O. can sometimes get more from staff, for example, when they show up as a ‘caring co-worker’ than when they wave their authority flag. In our personal relationships as well, I’ve found I can often get more traction and better outcomes in dealing with my kids when I don’t come in full-on ‘mom’ mode. Be intentional about the role you ‘wear’ in a given negotiation. Choose the role that will secure best outcomes.
If you haven’t been intentional about how to get or use power in your negotiations, don’t fret. It’s never too late to learn how to get and use power effectively. I hope these simple reframes have afforded you the opportunity to think about power differently and in so doing to show up as the most powerful version of yourself in your next negotiations.