What Is Logrolling Negotiation?

When you enter into negotiations, there are a lot of aspects to consider. You may use different tactics or angles, depending on the situation, and the process often requires improvisation and flexibility to be done well. An experienced negotiator has many different tools under their belt that they can bring out when the situation warrants it. This keeps their negotiation going and their desired outcomes protected.

What is logrolling in negotiation? Though the term may seem extreme, logrolling negotiation is a common form of negotiation that can be highly beneficial for everyone involved. When used correctly, this tactic is effective and ensures that both sides feel heard and cared for.

Whether you plan to use logrolling in negotiation yourself or want to be prepared if it’s used against you, it’s important to know the details of the tactic as well as how to properly use it in your favor. In doing so, you create a more effective negotiation strategy, and more consistent results.


The Basics of Logrolling

Logrolling negotiations begin by identifying the issues present in the negotiation. As many negotiators know, these situations rarely deal with only one factor. Instead, there are multiple things at play in a negotiation. Rarely does one side leave with every desire met.

At its core, logrolling is trading wins or trading issues during a negotiation. In order to reach a compromise, one side may cede on one topic while getting what they want on another. This ensures that both sides feel as though they’re cared for and are getting what they want.

For example, let’s say you’re going on vacation. Your spouse wants to go somewhere with lots of entertainment, good food, and a thriving nightlife. However, you want to go somewhere with natural expanses, adventurous activities, and quiet accommodations. If you logroll your negotiations, you may give up your requirement of adventurous activities if your spouse gives up their desire for nightlife. Though you both are missing something on your list, you both kept two priorities and are making sacrifices to accommodate the other. This makes each of you feel equally considered.

In the example above, the issues are posed as being of equal weight. However, logrolling does not often go this way. In most situations, both sides have priorities as well as issues that aren’t quite as important to their ultimate goal.


Developing a Logrolling Negotiation

For logrolling to occur, it’s best to rank a negotiation’s issues into a hierarchy, to better understand what matters most to both sides. Ultimately, your goal is to only give up issues that are of low priority to you. However, you may have to trade bigger issues to get the other side to do the same. It depends on the situation.

Consider what it’s like to buy a car. You have a budget, a style of choice, and other desires such as four-wheel drive, Bluetooth, heated seats, etc. If you go to the dealership and find a car without heated seats but that is in your price range, you may give up a small desire to stay on budget. Alternatively, the salesman could use logrolling by selling you a car that is over your budget, with the promise to add heated seats when you make the deal.

Developing your negotiation begins with ranking the key aspects of a negotiation. It’s important for you to know what you can let go of as a bargaining tactic, and what remains a priority no matter the circumstances.


Your Opponent

It’s equally important to determine your opponent’s priorities as well. In some scenarios, your priorities may be the same, but from opposing perspectives. In others, your opponent may have needs that you don’t have. Considering their priorities helps you to weigh your own against them. You may be able to get them to cede larger points in your favor if you can give up on issues that are not as important to you.


The Exchange

It can be helpful to look at negotiations as an exchange. It’s rare that any negotiation results in one side getting everything that they want while the other gets nothing. Instead, each side exchanges some of their priorities to prioritize others. Exchanging losses helps to keep things fair and ensure that all voices are heard.

In any exchange, you want the factors to be relatively equal, just as the price of an item is an equal exchange for the value of the item. You wouldn’t want to pay $500 for a candy bar, nor would it feel normal to receive a large TV for $1. The exchange of goods and services needs to be relatively equal.

In logroll negotiations, many people look at the exchange as a whole, rather than the individual transactions. For example, let’s say two people regularly go out to eat together. On one night, Person A pays for drinks at $20, while Person B pays for dinner at $70. This may seem unfair on the given night because Person B paid much more. However, when you look at all of the times the two have gone out to dinner, alternating who pays for drinks and who pays for the meal, the price each has paid over time evens out.

Remember that logroll negotiations do not always look equal when looking at individual aspects. You may feel as though you have to cede a lot of issues. However, when you weigh their value against big issues that you win, you should find that there was an even exchange. If the exchange is not even, keep negotiating your point until the situation feels balanced.


The Big Picture

While you first need to consider your own goals and your opponent’s goals in a logrolling negotiation, you must also look at the bigger picture. This protects you and your company in a few different ways.

Primarily, the big picture helps you to make sure you’re protecting your company’s ultimate goals and purpose. Though this individual negotiation may have its own priorities, it’s best to calibrate your negotiations to the company’s ultimate priorities. Consider if a certain point you’re fighting for is worth risking other, larger priorities that are linked to other matters. Decide whether you can protect yourself in the long run by taking a loss on an issue here but being able to save a priority for later on.

For example, let’s say that your employees come to you with some concerns. The biggest concern is getting new safety equipment for the workplace. While you may not believe that it’s necessary, and it doesn’t fit your budget, buying new safety equipment protects your company from future lawsuits and injuries. By agreeing to new safety equipment, you lose on one issue in the negotiation, but protect yourself on bigger issues overall.

It’s also important to consider your opponent’s big picture. Their individual points, or even their negotiation, may be small in their grand scheme of things. They may cede a point to you only because they are setting themselves up for bigger wins later. By agreeing to a loss, they may have more leverage down the road on something else. Be careful not to take wins too easily and consider how your wins may actually end up benefiting them and putting you at a disadvantage.

Knowing your opponent’s larger picture is also a great argument tactic. If you have inside information about their situation, you can more accurately and effectively argue points, a scenario that can put you at an advantage.



Though few like to discuss politics, politicians provide great examples of logrolling negotiations. In fact, the term logrolling comes directly from the political realm. Logrolling is especially prevalent in Congress and during lawmaking sessions. One side often fights for certain parts of a bill while the other side fights against them. By trading who wins on each point, eventually, both sides come to an agreement.

A lot of political logrolling happens in private. Congressmen agree to support bills or ideas if other congressmen support theirs. The negotiation allows both sides to win occasionally, instead of remaining gridlocked and never achieving anything at all.


Feeling Valued

One of the best parts of logrolling negotiations is their ability to make both sides feel heard, seen, and respected. When arguments or negotiations occur, many people’s instinct is to hold on to their perspective. However, logrolling negotiations do not accommodate stubbornness. The power in these situations comes from making the other person feel valued. When you accept some of their terms while rejecting others, you’re able to reach a compromise in which both sides can feel good about the results. This is the case even if one side is markedly more successful than the other.

It can be helpful to take the time to discuss the other negotiator’s terms at length. Even if you know that you will give up a topic in favor of another one, ask questions about their priorities and make it seem as if it’s a difficult decision for you. Even the smallest amount of leverage can be maximized this way, and it can help you win on more important points later on in the negotiation.

Allowing the other side to feel valued and important gives you significant advantages and helps you overall. It also gives them a reason to accommodate your terms on other issues, which are likely more important to you. These negotiations are not only about the facts, but they are also rather emotional as well. Though it’s important to not become overly emotional or aggressive, allowing feelings of value, care, and compassion into your negotiation can be extremely helpful, and entirely appropriate.


Sharpen Your Skills

If you’re looking to sharpen your logrolling negotiation skills or other areas of negotiation, we can help you. We specialize in many areas of negotiation and can give you the tools to properly participate in negotiations.


For more information, contact us online today.

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