Riddle Me This

Power Struggle

When entering into important negotiations, how do you tell if you or your opponent has the upper hand? Also, how can you use your position to your advantage?
-Name withheld

Theory aside, success in negotiation has more to do with leverage than principles. Assessing how you stack up against your opponent will help you choose your best strategy. Part of this is about power: Which side is bigger, has more resources, has more outside influence and can benefit or punish the other side more? But it's also about skill, momentum and greed: Who's got better negotiators? Who's working against a deadline? Who's got the best information? Who's the real decision-maker? Who wants the deal more?

Sometimes the answers to questions like those will be obvious. Other times, you'll have to force yourself to see the big picture and study your opponent. As negotiations continue, each side learns more about the other's strengths and weaknesses. So you should re-evaluate your leverage from time to time. Things change.

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This article was originally published in the November 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Riddle Me This.

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