Tools for Negotiation: Log-rolling

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Another useful tactic to use in a negotiation is Log-rolling. If this phrase conjures up images of a lumberjack balancing on a rolling log, you are on the right track. Log rolling is offering a concession on one issue in a order to gain ground on another one.

Negotiations are not always strictly distributive (battling over a fixed sum). In fact, most negotiations are integrative, meaning they provide opportunities for multiple parties to further their interests cooperatively. When you focus on appealing to the interests of other parties in a negotiation session, instead of espousing your ‘rights’ or ‘powers/entitlements according to the law’, you can make a lot of headway. This is where log rolling comes into play.

Suppose you are negotiating a contract or agreement with your roommate on how the household chores will be divided up. The two of you have to determine who will do the cooking, who will clean the bathroom, and who will mow the lawn. For the sake of this argument, we will assume that you actually enjoy cooking and wouldn’t mind doing this task every day. The grass is only mowed once a month but takes over an hour to do, and the bathroom must be cleaned every other day. Your roommate does not know that you enjoy cooking and assumes you hate all three of the tasks as much as he does.

Note: You should ALWAYS take time before a negotiation session to assess the issues, interests, and positions of all parties involved.  Determining your Best Alternatives To A Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA, and your opponent’s interests and BATNA, among other things.

While sitting down to discuss the chores, your roommate mentions that all the tasks should be split 50/50, with ‘one for one’ alternation of each task. You counter that you would be willing to do all of the cooking, if he is willing to do all of the cleaning and mow the lawn eight months of the year. Your roommate reasons that mowing the lawn is such an infrequent task  that the agreement is worth avoiding ever having to cook dinner. He is not fond of cleaning the bathroom either, but he prefers it to ever having to stand in front of a hot stove and chop up vegetables. Your roommate readily agrees to your proposal. You actually love cooking and loathe scrubbing the toilets and bathtub, so you are happy with the new agreement.

When you are willing to concede ground on issues that are less important in order to obtain a better outcome on a more valued issue, you can increase the chances of an agreement that everybody can live with.

Learn more about negotiation here.

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