From politics to finance to office (or even schoolyard) dynamics, everyone seems to seek power. Modern media encourages the public to crave power. The entertainment industry has everyone rooting for antiheroes who lust for power at any cost.
The problem is that people often buy into a misguided sense of what it means to have, hold, or exert power. Debunking some of those misconceptions and reframing how individuals look at power is important. To that end, this article explores concepts of power so one can come to the bargaining table to increase personal power in constructive ways.
What are some power levers one can bring to the table to secure better outcomes and increase power in positive ways?
Power of Purpose
Power of purpose is a good starting point. When one taps into their innate gift and uses it for its intended purpose, they wield tremendous personal power and the ability to effect profound change and influence in the world. When one approaches a negotiation, it is important to ground oneself in a sense of a deeper purpose and negotiate from that place.
Power of Collaboration
Added to that, when one recognizes the power of collaboration, they open themselves and their negotiating counterpart to opportunities for better outcomes than either would have achieved independently. The power of multiple brains working together, firing ideas off one another, inspiring one another to greater heights is a tremendous advantage in finding optimal results.
Power of Service
Taking collaboration one step further, much power can be mined from a service mindset. In other words, when one can release ego and seek to serve others, it changes how they present and, with it, the dynamic of a negotiation. While it may seem counterintuitive, approaching negotiations (and life) from a position of service to others yields great benefits in the process.
A person’s mindset can either give them great power or take it away. For example, seeking validation externally gives away power, while an internal sense of value empowers. Practicing unconditional self-love and managing one’s inner critic can allow one to negotiate from a position of unshakable personal power.
Power Over vs Power With
Individuals have been taught to view power as power over others versus power with. This is not surprising in a world that has increasingly defined success based on a competitive model. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines power as “possession of control, authority, or influence over others” —as if one owns control over others.
Power over versus power with is an important distinction. When seeking to exert power over others, people miss out on valuable opportunities to find creative solutions that better benefit all. By contrast, bringing empathy to the table, seeking to understand and meet the needs of others, working to find power together (power with others) can secure better outcomes, better buy-in, better relationships, and longer-lasting agreements.
Power of Proximity
Being mindful of the power of proximity allows one to occupy a more powerful version of themselves. It’s important to curate a personal inner circle. Best outcomes depend in part on the people one chooses to connect with. When individuals intentionally surround themselves with others who inspire, uplift and encourage them to be the best version they can be, they carry more power and, with it, more influence.
Power of BATNA
On a more practical note, never underestimate the power of one’s BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). In preparing for any negotiation, know what alternatives exist in the event the deal at hand does not come together. Knowing this gives leverage and allows one to realistically assess the edges of one’s resistance points.
Power of High Aspirations and Expectation
Studies suggest that those who have high aspirations in a negotiation get better results. Be intentional about setting high goals and anchoring high. It is also important to believe in the ability to achieve those higher outcomes. Having a genuine expectation of better outcomes makes it more likely those results will be realized.
Tied to that, understanding whether one fears success is vital. Fear of success is the oft-ignored sister to fear of failure, and it can be a major power setback. Fearing what success may mean to one’s current life and relationships can cause one to plateau and/or self-sabotage.
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
Individuals have the ability to bring more (or less) power to a negotiation depending on what role they choose. Often, mistakes are made by assuming that the higher title will wield more power. This is not always true. A CEO can sometimes get more from staff, for example, when they engage as a caring coworker than when exerting their authority.
Role is relevant for power dynamics in both personal and professional relationships. Being intentional about the role one plays in a given negotiation can create or break connection. Choose the role that will secure best outcomes.
It is never too late to learn how to get and use power effectively. These simple reframes can assist in thinking about power and choosing the most powerful version of oneself in negotiating one’s best life.