In order to have any kind of proper conversation about business matters, we first have to understand how negotiations work. And in order to have any kind of proper conversation about how negotiations work, we first have to understand the power dynamics at play.
Power dynamics are, in most cases, easy to discern. Just answer the following:
Who needs this deal to happen more?
When you can answer that, congratulations, you’ve just figured out who’s drawn the short straw in terms of power dynamics. If you don’t need to make a deal or are less disadvantaged by walking away, that’s an immense benefit in a negotiation because you know that the other side needs you more than you need them.
This is why bonafide stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Steven Spielberg are in such high demand; they have proven talent and audience appeal, which translates into lots and lots of opportunities being offered to them. And when the number of opportunities you have exceeds the time in which you have to do them, you have the luxury of being able to turn down the ones that don’t genuinely excite you.
At the other end of the spectrum, this is also why unestablished actors, writers, and directors don’t have much negotiating power. Their audience appeal and demands for their time or talents aren’t nearly as high, which means the other side isn’t as incentivized to make a deal with you specifically. Additionally, the “replacement cost” is much lower; replacing a less-established actor, director, or writer with another comparable, available talent is considerably easier than finding a comparable, available replacement for a beloved A-list celebrity.
When you’re negotiating a deal or considering an opportunity, it’s important to understand how the power dynamics work in that particular situation. If you assume you have less power than you actually do, you run the risk of appearing weak and being taken advantage of. But if you assume you have more power than you actually do, you run the risk of appearing unrealistic and having the other side not want to work with you at all.
Take stock of where you are in your career and what you bring to the table. Weigh those factors against what you’d be getting in return. The more accurately you’re able to assess the power dynamics of a situation, the better position you’ll be in for a productive, professional relationship.