Splitting the Difference: Notes on Negotiations

Splitting the Difference

Submitted by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute  

The NBA owners and players are at impasse in their current collective bargaining negotiation.  The last formal proposals had the players seeking 53 percent of NBA revenues with the owners offering 47 percent.  It was reported today that Commissioner David Stern “indicated that a 50-50 deal was discussed, and that he could have gotten the owners to agree to it.”  From this, I think it’s likely the owners initiated the discussion.  In response, the players released a letter hinting at a willingness to move to 52 percent.

Splitting the difference is typically viewed as a fair way to conclude a deal when the difference between the parties is small.  We typically suggest, however, that you try to get the other side to offer to split the difference because it then gives you the option of either accepting it or, as the players have done here, treating it as a counter and bracketing it to create a new center.

Here, the players’ informal move to 52 percent creates a new center at 51 percent.  It wouldn’t surprise me if a deal is eventually reached with a 51-49 split in favor of the union.


Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

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