Unlocking Negotiation Success Through Human Behaviour

Harnessing Human Behaviour for Effective Negotiations 

Efficiency is a fundamental aspect of human behaviour that filters our daily lives. It’s an inherent tendency to conserve energy and streamline actions, resulting in the creation of predictable behavioural patterns. Rather than hastily labelling this inclination as mere laziness, it is imperative to acknowledge and accept it as a regular trait within human nature. 

The Principle of Least Effort, as introduced by the linguist George Zipf, sheds insight into our underlying preference for the path of least resistance when striving to achieve our goals. Extensive research in the aftermath of Zipf’s groundbreaking work has consistently affirmed the prevalence and significance of this principle across an array of human endeavours and activities. 


Efficiency in the Workplace: A Determinant of Behaviour 

Within the realm of the workplace, the principle of least effort manifests as a pivotal determinant of behaviour. People intuitively gravitate towards the simplest and most expedient means of fulfilling their needs and obligations. Tasks and responsibilities that correspond with their individual interests and desires naturally receive a greater allocation of effort. Whereas those that entail substantial time or energy investment are often left incomplete. 


“Make it Easy; Make it Hard”: A Strategy for Negotiation Success 

In the context of negotiations, a strategically deployed approach known as “make it easy; make it hard,” returns remarkable effectiveness. The “make it easy; make it hard” approach involves simplifying a task to the utmost degree conceivable serves to entice individuals to voluntarily undertake it, while on the other hand, elevating the level of effort required makes it more difficult to discourage participation. This method empowers negotiators with the ability to subtly and discreetly influence the behaviour of others. 


Navigating Unwanted Requests: Reversing Effort Dynamics 

Professional relationships often require navigating through a labyrinth of requests and demands, some of which may not align with one’s own goals and priorities. In such scenarios, the challenge lies in effectively declining these unwanted requests without inducing discomfort or guilt in oneself or the requester. Research, particularly studies conducted by esteemed academic figures like professor Vanessa Bohns from Cornell University in the USA, underscores the pervasive social pressures associated with refusals, especially in face-to-face interactions. 

For negotiators who find themselves under pressure to agree to requests they’d rather decline, a clever strategy comes in the form of reversing the effort dynamics. By crafting responses that demand minimal effort on their part but necessitate significant steps from the requester, some of these undesirable requests may naturally dissipate, obviating the need for a direct and potentially awkward refusal. 


Managing Non-Responsiveness: A Strategic Approach 

Rather than presenting a complex problem, individuals can elicit help by inquiring about the most fundamental step or seeking advice. This approach aligns with the principle of least effort and greatly increases the chances of a favourable and cooperative response. 

Understanding the human tendency to avoid effort holds profound implications when addressing non-responses in negotiations. Instead of brooding over the underlying reasons for a lack of response, it is judicious to appraise the effort quotient intrinsic to the initial request. Simplifying both the content and cognitive load of the request, coupled with the possibility of engaging in a low-effort follow-up, can serve as a major catalyst for reigniting negotiations. 


Leveraging Human Behaviour for Negotiation Excellence 

Effort, once considered an obstacle, emerges as a dynamic and versatile element of negotiation strategy. It can be calibrated to influence the willingness of participants, guide the trajectory of discussions, and ultimately lead to favourable outcomes. By delving into the psychology of effort, negotiators can decipher the motivations and inclinations of their counterparts. Simultaneously, they can strategically adjust the effort associated with various aspects of the negotiation process to steer it in their desired direction. By meticulously weighing the effort entailed in both requests and responses, negotiators can subtly and adeptly influence outcomes, skilfully navigating negotiations with grace and finesse. The discernment and harnessing of the principle of least effort in human behaviours bestows a valuable toolset upon negotiators. In this context, effort transitions from being perceived as an impediment to a valuable ever for the orchestration of effective negotiation strategies. 


Georgie Mclean
Georgie Mclean

Part of the EdventureCo Group, a Certified B Corporate

EdventureCo logo