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Prioritizing

 

Disciplines > Negotiation > Activities > Prioritizing

Pairwise comparison | Prioritization criteria | Prioritizing as influence | See also

 

There are many choices in negotiation, and a key activity is deciding what is more important than what else.

Pairwise comparison

We decide on importance by comparing and contrasting things. Pairwise comparison simply takes two things at a time and comparing them, for example as in the swap-sort. Comparing just two things at one time focuses attention and makes choices easier.

This is useful in negotiation both for yourself (if you want to focus, only compare two things) and to get the other person to focus (provide them with something desirable and something undesirable).

Prioritization criteria

What is often forgotten in prioritizing is that, whilst two items may be compared against one another there are criteria that are being used. Thus, if you are choosing one holiday over another, you may be using criteria such as cost, convenience and so on.

If you can understand and control the criteria being used, you can significantly influence the prioritization and hence choices that are being made. It is, however important that the criteria are seen as being fair. This is something that you must both be aware of and also have the opportunity to control. Criteria may be based on standards, which also may be understood and changed to control the priorities and hence decisions.

Where there is more than one criterion, the criteria themselves have a priority order. Thus, there are criteria for the criteria. If you can identify this underlying criterion, you can get to the root driver. For example for going on holiday, the root criterion may be 'pleasure value', a return-on-investment measure of value.

Prioritizing as influence

When you work alongside another person, helping them prioritize is a subtle step along the way to changing their mind. Although an agreement has not yet been reached, if they have decided that one thing is more important than another thing, then the less important item can be dropped.

When two items have been prioritized, the next step can be to increase the gap between them. Once the other person has made the decision that A is better than B, then they will be subject to a  confirmation bias, whereby they will seek to confirm their decision. They are particularly susceptible now to suggestion that A is much better than B, and that B can be hence be completely ignored.

Prioritization errors

There are many errors of judgment that people make when deciding and prioritizing. This gives both traps that you might fall into and also many opportunities that you can take. A related area is logical fallacies, where what seems to be correct is not actually so. When you understand these areas, you can also influence how people decide and prioritize.

See also

Changing standards, Fair criteria, Biased choice, Confirmation Bias

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