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Flip a Coin


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation tactics > Flip a Coin

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



If you cannot agree, suggest rolling dice or flipping a coin to decide who gets a disputed resource.

You can also suggest this if the other person is gaining an advantage over you or where they are being obstructive.

This is a good method to use when it seems that you have a less than 50% chance of getting what you want through normal negotiation. It is also useful when the discussion is about who should have a single item, where one person getting it means the other person gets nothing (or a lesser item).

If they are suspicious, you can let them flip the coin. If they do so, ensure the coin falls to the floor rather than being caught (where tricky peek-and-flip methods can be used).


Look, we're getting nowhere. Let's just toss a coin to see who gets it.

If you can guess which hand I've got it in, then you can have it, otherwise I keep it. Ok?.


This is a suggestion of using random chance to decide, and while it may seem unsophisticated it is actually very fair when the reasons for each person wanting something are both valid.

Tossing a coin has the advantage of being a quick and clear method, which makes it useful when you are in a hurry and where getting the disputed item or not is not a critical issue.

The simplicity of the method makes it useful with children and friends, where a quick, fair decision is important to keep things going and to preserve a relationship that may be strained by regular protracted negotiations.

The idea of fairness is important as this is what persuades. It moves discussion from what each should have to what is fair in terms of the process of deciding. The unwritten assumption behind it is that each person has an equal right to the item in dispute, although this is not always the case (a point that may be deliberately overlooked).

See also

Statistical Principles

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