The Authority In The Negotiation

Jordi Servat Founder and Consultant of Gestión del Cambio Empresarial

If we look up what authority is in a dictionary, we can read that it is the power or right to command or rule people who are subordinate and it is also said of the person who has this power or right.

I am not referring to this type of authority, but to the privilege that is recognized in influence. For example, that of an individual over the “status quo” of a collective.

In other words, the capacity to influence the opinions of other people, which is what gives this primacy and this capacity to persuade, is fundamental in negotiation.

When negotiators sit at a table, normally on both sides, the person who defends his or her position against the opposing party must use all the resources at his or her disposal to impact his or her interlocutors and persuade them that their point of view must be considered and taken into account in order to make the final decision.

If this influence is achieved, it is clear that the opposing party has been brought closer to what the first party has defended, and the agreement reached will therefore be much more favourable than in other different situations that we can handle.

Let’s think that a negotiation process that comes to a good end is no more than two positions distant from each other at the beginning, at least one of the parties, moves making concessions well valued by the opposite party, until it finds that point where both parties feel more or less satisfied with the agreement reached.

Professor Robert Cialdini (1947) of the University of Arizona, a trained psychologist and writer, is recognized worldwide as one of the most renowned scholars of persuasion, and thanks to his work in multicultural environments he has been able to detect six principles that are inexorably fulfilled in any culture, and that if used in a negotiating environment, persuade people or persons who may be in front of them in a given situation.

Authority is one of those six principles.

And what is the principle of authority for Dr. Robert Cialdini?

When a person is recognized for their very broad experience and expertise in the subject matter at hand, he has that authority.

That authority, must often be made known at the beginning of the negotiation process, because that prestige does not have to be known, from the outset, by the other party.

To some of the readers, this disclosure may seem to be a presumptuous person, which goes against the most elementary rules of humility and, obviously, I totally agree, if it is not presented in the most appropriate way, that it can be perceived as that, a real lack of humility.

On the other hand, if because of the pressure of time (always scarce in negotiation), or because it seems to be presumptuous, it is not said… this principle is not used, and therefore, the interests of those who have trusted the negotiator will not be defended in the best possible way.

As an example, we could imagine a professor who can say at a certain moment that he is very good at teaching, and said so, we could qualify the person as a person with a significant lack of modesty. But if that same professor says that he has more than 20 years of experience teaching in one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and that he has given conferences in forums on various continents. Then, we will automatically think that this person must have indisputable qualities that have allowed the person to do what he does, because if that were not the case, he probably would not have been invited as a speaker and he would not be a professor in those centres either.

The experience of working in a specific sector, the training you have, the knowledge and experience of having worked in certain companies, the articles published on the subject, the colleagues you work with as a team, within a long etc. are all elements that enhance a person’s authority.

Therefore, we must make this information known with modesty, because in this way, and in agreement with Professor Cialdini, we are defending the interests of those who have placed their trust in us, and who therefore have an obligation to defend and reach agreements that are very good for those we represent.

And the principle of authority, because of its ability to persuade, can help us to achieve our objective.

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