How do negotiators build persuasive arguments?

How do negotiators build persuasive arguments?
Argument dilution


Video transcription: When most negotiators persuade they see the argument and the persuasion as a balance. What they do is that they think that the more they can add to the balance the more persuasive it's going to be. That's demonstrated by what people say like; the weight of the argument, tipping the balance, it hangs in the balance. You could see that they have a theory that the more they add to the balance the more persuasive it's going to be. So if that were true when Huthwaite did its negotiation research which is the largest objective piece of negotiation research that's ever been undertaken in the world today. If that were true then you'd see them adding lots of arguments to build a case. In actual fact what happens is that is not true.

Skilled negotiators will only add one or two reasons to an argument to persuade the other party. Whereas average negotiators will add three or more reasons to the balance to try and persuade. When we looked at it what we discovered was that skilled negotiators were saying if you want me to do this. This is the reason why I can't and they'll stick firmly to one reason only add two if they're pushed. Whereas average negotiators will add more.

To give you an example of this, I have a friend who has a very bright daughter and when she was about five or six they were going off to the Yorkshire Dales to a mobile home, she said daddy can I take my bicycle? Her dad said no. Kids are very smart and she asked why can't I take my bicycle? He said Well there's lots to do. We're going for days out. You won't have time to use it. But Daddy why can't I take my bicycle? Well because of the swings and the slide you can use them for recreation and play with your friends. But Daddy why can't I take a bicycle? He said well we can't get it in the car. Kids are smart. Several minutes later when my friend came down with the suitcases to go to the car he found his daughter, Six year old, Sitting in the back of the car with her bicycle on her knee.

Now that's argument dilution and what she did is she waited for the weak reason and she attacked it. If you're in negotiation and people ask you do you have any more reasons for doing it? Is that the only reason for doing it? Think about the way that skilled negotiators persuade and they'll say this reason alone is good enough to make us want to do this.

New call-to-action

About the Author
Neil Clothier

Written by Neil Clothier

Neil Clothier has been with Huthwaite for 21 years, firstly delivering and designing training, now managing Huthwaite’s team of sales and negotiation strategists. He has worked with sales and procurement divisions in sectors as diverse as logistics, IT, oil & gas, telecoms, pharmaceutical, industrial, government, professional & financial services. He has coached multi-million dollar negotiations gaining buy-in from multiple stakeholders and helping to secure robust mandates and ultimately workable and profitable deals. He is a regular guest speaker including IBM’s Asia Pacific Conference.