Ask Alignor

How should I deal with someone who has leverage over me?

Leverage is a fact of life. Sometimes you have it. Other times, another person has it. When we have leverage, we may rely on it without realizing it. This occurs when we expect to get a “good deal,” regardless of how the other person will be affected. On the other hand, when someone uses leverage against us, we often resent it! So what exactly do we mean by “leverage?” Leverage is generally the perception that one person in an interaction either has more to offer or has better alternatives than the other person. While leverage may reflect valid perceptions, its importance can also be overrated. This is because an effective negotiator who understands stakeholder needs can often find creative options that a person who relies too heavily on leverage may overlook. In addition, when you face someone who uses leverage excessively, you should consider thinking about both long term and short term interests. For example, while your counterpart may be able to exercise leverage over you in the short term, you might be able to develop longer term alternatives that level the playing field by enhancing your ability to satisfy your own needs or harm the needs of your counterpart. An example of this would be developing a new relationship with your counterpart’s competitor so that you will not need to deal with your counterpart in the future. If you prepare effectively using the Alignor 3-Step model, you may be able to identify some long term strategies right away and communicate them to your counterpart in a manner that actually increases your leverage in the short term. Finally, when you deal with a difficult person who relies excessively on leverage, you may find that your counterpart is more vulnerable than they think and can be neutralized by a few well placed consequences that harm their critical needs.