Reframing Conflict & Power to Become a Better Negotiator

When you think of conflict, what words come to mind? How do you feel when you think about conflict? If you’re like most people, it triggers your lizard brain with a corresponding fight, flight or freeze response. Similarly, when you think of power, do you think of control over someone?

How we define conflict and power affects how we negotiate. Traditional views of both are, in part, responsible for stopping us from stepping up as our best negotiating selves. Let’s unpack how we currently view conflict and power to see if we can’t come up with a more empowering reframe of each.

Exploring dictionary definitions of conflict, the following words or phrases pop up:

  • Fight
  • Battle
  • War
  • Antagonistic state or action
  • Competitive or opposing action
  • Incompatible goals
  • Collision
  • Disagreement
  • Clash of interest (usually over limited resources)
  • Perceived threat
  • Struggle

Perhaps the most unnerving was “may often have physical or psychological harm or destruction of their opponent as a goal.” Really?! No wonder people have resistance to conflict!

If we’re conditioned to perceive conflict in these terms, it’s no surprise that it triggers negative reactivity and provokes a competitive approach or causes us to back away altogether. Neither of these approaches serve the best negotiator in all of us.

These definitions are also premised on a scarcity mindset, one where we assume we’re fighting over limited resources. Again, this approach invariably leads to either a competitive response or an avoidance response.

It’s worth noting that this perception is more likely to adversely impact on women given our conditioning to be ‘good girls’, to ‘play nice’, to be ‘givers not takers’.

Instead, I invite you to reframe conflict.

What if, instead of a scarcity mindset, you approached life with an abundance mindset? Where you didn’t see life as a finite pie from which you had to clamor to get your slice, but instead, as offering unlimited resources. What if you chose to believe that there is all the love you need in this world; all the time you need; enough business for everyone; enough food for all; etc.?

What if you chose to see conflict as a valuable opportunity for growth, allowing people to consider and produce new and different ideas. What if conflict was constructive and necessary, opening the world to alternatives, allowing increased participation and reassessment, helping to build community and cohesiveness? What if conflict was the path to resolve problems and increase tolerance of differing views and perspectives? 

Imagine how different negotiations would be if you approached conflict from that mindset. If it didn’t have to be about right or wrong, win or lose. Imagine what a difference that simple shift could make.

Tied to defining conflict is how we define power. Conditioning around power is another problem that interferes with our ability to step into our best negotiating selves. At the heart of many conflicts is an underlying sense of powerlessness. 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. We’re encouraged (sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much so) to crave power. This is not surprising in a world where we define success based on a competitive model. Our entertainment industry even has us cheering on anti-heroes in their quest for power at any cost.

I discuss how to tap into to more positive sources of power in my article, How to Get & Use Power in Negotiations.

I invite you to reframe how you look at power so you can bring it to the bargaining table in more elegant and constructive ways. We’ve been taught to view power as power over others versus power with. 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.

I invite you to reframe your concepts of conflict and power. Consider a potential situation of conflict that you may be facing in your life right now. How might reframing it as a beautiful opportunity to resolve problems in more creative ways help you show up better (and as a result get better outcomes)? Likewise, how might you increase your power in more constructive ways?


Are you looking to up level your negotiation skills?

How to Get What You Want from the Boardroom to the Bedroom

Negotiation skills are a woman’s secret weapon.

Art of Feminine Negotiation debunks myths and multi-generational gender conditioning that have stopped women from fully stepping into their power. Uncover the unconscious biases that have limited women from becoming the biggest and best versions of themselves. 


Learn the key skillsets that mark superior negotiators, explore how women already possess these skills in spades, and master how to start invoking these essential skills with intention in everyday life.

Please enjoy my TEDx Ocala talk
- Rise of the Feminine Voice as the Key to Our Future-  

rise of the feminine voice cindy watson tedx ocala

Click to play


conflict, Negotiations, power, reframing, Women and the Art of Negotiation

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