Negotiating in Life , Planning for Negotiations December 21, 2009

Is this a real issue?

There are two types of issues in any business negotiation: real issues and straw issues. You want to negotiate on the real issues...

There are two types of issues in any business negotiation: real issues and straw issues. You want to negotiate on the real issues. Straw issues are just like packing paper, just there as stuffing or filler, making it hard get to the real issues. Straw issues are distractions, bluffs, decoys... They are there to add an extra layer to get through.

However, negotiators sometimes use straw issues to achieve the results they want. By putting out straw issues, negotiators are giving themselves room to maneuver; they are creating ways to extract consessions. Negotiators who know how to use straw issues know that once these issues are removed from the table, the real issues seem more manageable, easier to deal with.

In labor negotiations, many demands often lead to more concessions. By having many demands on the table, labor negotiators are satisfying different parts of their membership. And with many demands in hand, these negotiators can give away the “straws,” thus giving themselves more room to exchange issues.

Sometimes it is hard to recognize which is a real issue and which is a straw issue. You don’t want to spin your wheels dealing with a straw issue. To get down to the real issues you will have to discover which issues are truly important. This will take a bit of patience and some investigation. Perhaps you hold some off-record discussions with the other party. You can ignore some issue and concentrate on what you want to concentrate on. If the issue is a straw issue, it will go away.

Straw issues may be annoying to the other party but they give you more space to negotiate. Chester L. Karrass has found that the more space you have to negotiate, the better you do in the negotiation.

How do you use straw issues? How do you identify straw issues when you are confronted with them?
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