How Negotiators Can Make Ziff’s Principle Work For Them In A Negotiation

by drjim on May 23, 2014

Keeping it simple for the other side in your next negotiation

Keeping it simple for the other side in your next negotiation
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Can we all agree that negotiations are complicated things? I mean, just think about all of the work that you put into preparing for you last negotiation – you did put in a lot of work preparing, didn’t you? It turns out that there’s been some very fascinating research done about how much effort people are willing to put into a given negotiation and the answer just might surprise you…

Ziff’s Principle

Back in the 1940’s, psychologist George Kingsley Zipf discovered the “Principle of Least Effort” : Most people, most of the time, are turned back by modest hurdles that they could overcome with only a little effort. As negotiators, the so called “Ziff Principle” is a very important tool that we need to use in our next negotiation.

The principle, also know as “Ziff’s Principle”,, can be the key to making a negotiation go the way that you want it to go. Forget all of those negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, what you need to understand is that the other side’s inclination is going to be to do as little work as possible to prepare for the negotiation. This means that you need to do a lot more work than they’re going to do in order to be prepared.

In order to understand how the other side of the table is going to see the negotiation based on the Ziff Principle, you need to ask yourself some questions. Ask yourself “what would I want from this negotiation?” Also ask “what questions would I need to have answered before I could agree to a deal?” Once you understand these questions, make sure that you arrive at the negotiation with good answers to them.

How To Make Ziff’s Principle Work For You

Since based on Ziff’s principle, we know that the other side will be trying to expend as little effort as possible on the negotiation, you need to make it easy for them to do little. This means that you’re going to have to be keeping your eyes open for opportunities to do extra work – if you make life easier for the other side then you’ll be able to steer the negotiations in the direction that you want them to go.

During every negotiation, there will be legwork that will be required. An issue will come up that will require calls to be made or research to be done. Always volunteer to be the one to do that work. By doing so you’ll be able to control both what and how information flows back into the negotiations. Additionally, based on the Ziff principle the other side will not be double checking the information that you present.

Always be ready to answer the questions that the other side is going to be too lazy to answer for themselves. Often times a deal has a bottom line – what is each side going to make if they do this deal. Yes, everyone could crunch the numbers to calculate this number, but that could be hard to do and it’s a lot of effort. If you do the work and come up with a number, then you can present the number to the other side and Ziff’s principle tells us that they’ll just accept it –they won’t do the work to double check you.

What All Of This Means For You

Every principled negotiation takes a lot of effort on the part of the people who are involved in it. Just how much effort everyone is willing to invest into a negotiation is something that has been carefully studied. The result of these studies has been the creation of the Ziff principle that says that most people involved in a negation will extend the least amount of effort that they can get away with.

As negotiators we can use the Ziff principle to anticipate how the other side of the table will approach the negotiations. If you take the extra effort to create an easy way for the other side to approach the negotiations, then they will almost always take that path. This means that you can lead them to the final deal that you’d like to be able to reach.

Understanding how much of an effort that your opponent is willing to invest in something is a critical piece of information. The Ziff principle almost allows us to read the mind of the person who is sitting on the other side of the table. Use this knowledge to design the negotiation that will create the deal that you most want to have.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What’s the best way to present a low effort deal to the other side of the table?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

At the end of the day, all negotiators want to achieve the same thing: a good deal. The question that we all face is just exactly how go about making this happen in our next negotiation. No matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used in a negotiation, there is one skill that we all need in order to be able to make that good deal happen: tenacity.

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