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Human Aspect: The Context of Power

Power relations are dynamic. 

Most imagine power relations to be static. They believe that the powerful shall remain powerful always irrespective of the time and space they operate in. But this could not be further than the truth. Power relations are evolving constantly. Depending on the behavior of certain variables, power relations change and the ones who can take note of these changes, stand to benefit.

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The Importance of Space

In a nation with high power distance and bureaucratic interventions, the bureaucrats would naturally hold more power. But the bureaucrats would not hold the same level of power in a developed country where all benefits are transferred online to its citizens and the scope to use discretionary power is limited.

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Further, the importance of space in power relations can easily be understood by us when we are stopped by a security guard of a building complex who has been authorized not through a legal dictate but just by the dictate of the dwellers to inquire the nature of business and destination from every visitor. You might be more educated and in a better position in society, but right at that space, at that moment, the guard holds power over you, which brings us to:

The Importance of Time

The Guard would hold more power over you if it is in the middle of night rather than in the morning hours.

A union leader would have more power over the management of an organization in a year marked with unfortunate accidents. The police would have more power in a state of emergency rather than in times of peace. Isn’t it wonderful how differently we can look at the variables themselves? 

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Time can also be looked at through lens of time-period or a fast approaching deadline. The party whose deadline is nearer would be keener to come to a solution and thus, yield some power to their opponent.

The Importance of Relation

This sounds apparent. But often we forget that power relations depend a lot on how much intertwined both the parties are. How dependent are they on each other? How frequently do they have to deal with each other? If there is no dependency, the chances of conflict would be minimal.

But in a globalized world, can there be any two persons with no mutual dependency? Maybe this is one of the reason why conflicts around the world are increasing at such a rate!

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What other variables do you think affect power relations? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Amartya Dey, India

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Negotiation.001: The First Rule

No, its not determining your reserved price. Or that BATNA and WATNA. 

We negotiate every single day of our lives. Even species not as sophisticated as ours, do it. Every day. But their need to negotiate results from their drive to survive. Humans have to do it. Especially the ones living below the poverty line. But as we climb up the economic, political and social ladder, the need to negotiate results from the desire to assert.

Assert our thoughts, our ideas. Display power in an evident way or a nuanced way. Matter. 

There are men and women who assert with ease. There are some who do not want to but may have to, given the circumstances. Irrespective, one has to negotiate. Even the ones who shy away from negotiation because they might think that:

  • to sit at a negotiating table is beneath them
  • a negotiation exercise is not worth it
  • they might hurt the feelings of the counter-party
  • they can adjust no matter what so negotiation is not required
  • they are not good at negotiating

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So let us break some myths here before getting to the first rule:

  • First, negotiation can never be beneath anybody. We are where we are as a species because we are superior negotiators. It is as simple as that.
  • Secondly, negotiation is totally worth the trouble. Negotiation not only helps us win loofahs in a bathing argument, it actually helps us innovate. If you want to be a change agent, if you want to challenge the status quo, you need to learn how to negotiate. Better. Every day.
  • Thirdly, if you do not get personal and hit someone below their belt, you would not be hurting anyone’s feelings any time soon. And yes, a superior negotiator is not one who wins it all, but one who makes the right concessions so that he might win the next negotiation round too and the one after that. You cannot do that around bruised egos.
  • Fourthly, one-sided adjustment is not sustainable. Whether it be your personal life or your professional life, be ready to negotiate with your spouse and your boss. Again, negotiation does not mean shouting across a table, slamming the glass on it and hurling abuses. No. Negotiation is asserting your presence, your rights, your wants in a civilized manner and appreciating the same of the party you are negotiating with.
  • Fifthly, as mentioned in the first point, we are all superior negotiators. We each have our own style. Some may feel more comfortable by being the first one to state their list of demands (so as to fix the anchor price or reference point), while some may like to listen to everyone before stating anything. It depends. On the situation, on the type of our personality. On the characteristics of the ones sitting across the table. That said, we can only be better negotiators only by negotiating more often. The best negotiators are the best because they have negotiated with more people and situations than you and me. It is that simple.

Which brings us to:

The First Rule: Do not shy away from the negotiating table. 

Embrace negotiation. Fail. Falter. Make amends. Try again. Negotiate with your spouse as to who is to do the dishes next. Negotiate with your boss if he overloads you with work or does not respect your well-earned family time. Negotiate with society and challenge the norms you feel are silly and stupid. Negotiate to win. Negotiate even after you lose.

Just do not shy away. Negotiate. The world would be all the better for it.

Amartya Dey, India

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