The Dark Side of Influence: How to Use Coercion and Threats to Get What You Want

What makes a great negotiator? Some would say it’s communication skills while others would say it’s one’s ability to seek mutual understanding. In many cases, however, a great negotiator is simply the one who holds the power. Typically, the more power we hold, the more confident we feel and that can lead to successful outcomes. 

Though most people would argue against using power as a way to get what you want, there are times when this may be the only solution. For example, if teachers feel they are being underpaid and overworked, they may have tried voicing their concerns to no avail. This may leave them with no other choice but to go on strike. In other words, they are using their power to get what they want. If you find yourself in a similar situation where you must use the power of coercion to get what you want, here are some ways you can use that power to negotiate a deal in your favor. 

What is Coercive Power?

Coercive power is the ability of the power holder to take something away from the other person or to punish them for noncompliance. The example of the teachers on strike stated above would be an example of using coercive power. Using the threat of a strike, threatening a non-payment, threatening to go public, or threatening to take legal action would all be instances of coercive power. What all of these practices have in common is the element of fear. 

When to Use Coercion?

The use of coercion should certainly not be the first choice of action for most negotiators. This type of negotiation would only be necessary if there was no other option available and it was worth the risk. There is a steep price to pay for using coercive power and threats. You risk ruining relationships with the other party or even ruining your own reputation, and the outcome may be short lived. 

Although coercive power and threats can sometimes result in amazing short-term effects, it is not likely that it would produce the long-term outcome you would hope for. Instead, it may be more beneficial to use reward power. Reward power is used to support legitimate power. Someone might receive a reward such as recognition, a pay raise, a bonus, or other rewards for a job well done. Reward power comes from having the ability to reward the other party in the negotiation. It could be the power a salesperson has to give good service or solve a problem. This use of power is typically more beneficial in the long run.