As a local government manager, you meet with a variety of people on a daily basis. You spend time with developers, staff, and the list goes on. As you do all of this, do you consider how you can gain leverage in your dealings with these individuals? Do you consider the impact that such efforts have on your abilities to negotiate?

Gaining leverage in a negotiation is one aspect that leads to winning a negotiation. The questions some negotiators ask are: How do I gain leverage in a negotiation? What’s the value of it? How do I use it once I have it? Here are ways to gain and use leverage in a negotiation.


  • Gaining leverage is the advantage you acquire in a negotiation as the result of an act you commit and/or a position the other negotiator is in as the result of such action.


  • Understand what you did to obtain leverage; for example, you caught the opposing negotiator in an untruthful statement, which then caused the negotiator’s other positions to be called into question. Understand when you have leverage, what you’ll do with it (e.g., as a strategy, cause the negotiator to defend a position that doesn’t serve her or him). And, what you’ll do to regain leverage once you lose it because in a negotiation, leverage ebbs and flows based on the positional power of the negotiators.


  • Consider the person with whom you’re negotiating and what stimuli will influence him or her. Will the negotiator, for example, move from pain to pleasure or fight you harder if you back him or her into a corner?


  • Consider how you can impress and/or intimidate the other negotiator. In some cases, opposing negotiators can share a common interest, which may serve one more than the other. The one to which more of a gain occurs is the one with more leverage.


  • To gain leverage, feed the ego when such is sought and required. Feeding vanity can be a great source of motivation for the other negotiator to grant concessions at times. The reason being, she or he may want to appear to be generous and kind.


  • Be long term in thoughts and outcome.


  • Shift the perspective to fit your reality and don’t worry if others don’t buy into it. If you’re strong and persistent enough, over time you’ll benefit from not backing down because even a lie can become the truth if it’s told enough and enough people begin to believe it. When seeking leverage, a statement said with assuredness can be more believable even if it’s false than a truthful sentiment stated with doubt.


  • Learn to be a good spin master. Cast your position and perspective from a point that best serves your purposes.


  • Go after things you engage in with the expectation that you’re doing whatever it will take to win. When positioning your perspective to gain leverage, remember to synchronize your body language—nonverbal gestures and the like—with what you are saying.


  • Summarize people in negotiations with one word and in ways that position them in the way you wish them to be viewed by others. The light in which you display people to others can be the way they’re viewed. In a negotiation, to gain leverage, attempt to position the opposing negotiator in a light that’s less flattering per her or his position. Show control with your anger, environment, other negotiator, and yourself. Think about where you come into a situation. That will determine your perspective of it.


In a negotiation, your perspective determines the actions you engage in. When seeking to gain leverage, consider how both you and the opposing negotiator views the perspective of why you’re negotiating and what you seek from it.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!



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