Arguments in First Offers

First offers may be often critical in all sorts of political negotiations and social conflicts. One way to establish stronger first offers, which seems reasonable at least, is to provide supporting arguments. The thinking behind such practice goes something like this: strong arguments in first offers will minimize adjustment from the initial anchor and consequently will lead to more favorable counter-offers. Unfortunately, research shows that arguments in first offers backfire.

In a study published last year (Maaravi, Gonzach, and Pazy 2011), the researchers tested this idea experimentally. The researchers predicted and found evidence supporting their prediction that when a responding party in negotiation hears an argument in favor of the initial offer, it will likely think of counter-arguments. These counter-arguments in turn will push the counter-offer farther away from the initial offer. So, for example, a prospective buyer of a car hearing an argument in favor of the initial offer will likely generate many counter-arguments against it (e.g. its color is ugly and its owner looks like a sour guy).

So whenever making a first offer, be wary of adding arguments in support of that offer. Of course, there are some situations when adding arguments might be worthwhile (for example when generation of counter-arguments is difficult), but overall first offers without arguments seem to work better.

Sources

  • Maaravi Y., Ganzach Y., and Pazy A. (2011). Negotiation as a form of persuasion: Arguments in first offers, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101: 245-255.