Negotiating From Weakness
By Rowen Untivero
 
How do we negotiate with a more powerful counterpart?
 
Allow me to respond to this very common negotiation question more generally for the benefit of those of you who have the same query, albeit back-dropped in varying contexts.
 
STRATEGIC NEGOTATION PERSPECTIVE
 
The strategic answer is DON’T!  If you have the time and means to still augment your side’s level of power prior to the encounter, suavely dribble negotiations. That way you do not unduly seduce the predator to view you as delectable meal.  
 
Note the three components at play: conflict, time and means to improve relative power. Mansmith’s strategic negotiation provides tools anchored on framework to increase capability to control the very outcome of negotiation. Organic to that is the requisite attempt to broaden and deepen the power base.
 
As a perfect example, in the West Philippine Sea dispute, China’s military might in terms of numbers and weapons unmistakably dwarfs our smaller and less equipped naval and air forces.  Such is their primary source of negotiation power. To compound matters, time is likewise not on our side. The longer the delay in any significant progress, the closer the construction of and on the artificial islands will be to completion.
 
The pertinent question now is: “are there opportunities for the Philippines to improve its power position?” Apparently there are several. The UNCLOS decision could have been one except that does not appear to be enforceable. In fact, it was downright rejected by the Chinese government. Another one appeared but quickly sunk in the quagmire of ASEAN disunity. Still another one stares us in the face. Although, alone, our military forces will take decades, loads of money and sustained resolve to level-up to our counterpart’s league, but if we can work out reasonable terms with both old and new allies, then our side’s numbers and quality would prove to be formidable.  Obviously the intent is not to start armed conflict, but on the contrary, to gain better respect and posture at the negotiation table. That is the strategic way we can sit as equals in any negotiation, particularly a bilateral one. The fourth source of power can be media, to encourage more transparency as each country needs to maintain acceptable levels of press image. This can bring the discussion to a more open negotiation atmosphere from the current conflict-ridden climate.
 
But what if there appears no option to improve power, concomitant with Chronos not being on our side and Hercules preoccupied, what can be our recourse? In cases far from optimal negotiating conditions, tactical negotiating skills will provide the critical difference between enjoying the savannah freely and assuaging the famished lion as a meaty treat. 
 
TACTICAL NEGOTIATION PERSPECTIVE
 
Regardless of negotiating circumstances, tactical negotiation skill enables the user to maneuver around power and time pressure.  Cognizant of negotiation gambits, particularly those predicated on power and time, the skilful tactical negotiator is able to get his side out of harm’s way by neutralizing gambits like ‘take-it-or-leave-it’, ‘do-first-the –deed-then-discuss-later’, ‘intimidation’ among many. Creative generation of more mutually optimized options, judicious use of concession items, the ability to use varied types of stonewalls and the dexterous management of backdoor exits combined, can yield mutually acceptable terms.
 
In the case of the West Philippine Sea dispute, the tactical ability of our negotiating team to propose creative workable options that will demilitarize the context, constitutionally address sovereignty issues, while providing face-saving avenues for everyone, can turn a potential Armageddon to opportunity for sustainable and viable co-existence for involved nations.  
 
Rowen Untivero is a Partner and Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the country’s leading marketing, sales, strategy and innovation training company.  Untivero is the developer of original Mansmith Frameworks such as the world’s first “Nego-Mathematics”, the “Strategic Nego-Mapping Tool” and the “Pyramid Repertoire of 13 Influencing Strategies and Methods in Influencing-P.R.I.S.M 13” among others.  He has been injecting much practicable science into sales management, negotiations, selling and general management for more three decades.  Please send your questions, comments or feedback to mentors@mansmith.net. You can also visit 
www.mansmith.net.