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The Zone Defense


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation tactics > The Zone Defense

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Each person on the negotiating team has an area of expertise and/or responsibility.

A way this may be used as a tactic is that one person negotiates with the other side to gain some concession. Then as the other person thinks they are making progress, a new negotiator is brought in and who takes a different tack, making new demands, including in areas that the other side thinks is all agreed.

Zone methods can also be used for such a one person taking notes, another watching for body language while another negotiates the fine detail.


Hello. I represent the estates department. I know you have been talking to the facilities people, but I have some particular needs that must be covered.

Yes, I know my husband agreed some thinks about the kitchen and I just need to check the fittings are suitable.

Now then, I'm Michael's manager and he may have over-stepped his authority in a few places. Before we agree I want to clear up a few details.


The zone defense is used in team sports games where different players 'own' separate parts (or 'zones') of the field. Hence if an attacker crosses a zone boundary a fresh defender will seek to tackles them. This limits the need to run long distances, giving each new defender increasingly more energy than a single running attacker. Also, if an attacker gets past a defender through greater skill in one area, the different skills of the next defender may enable a more successful tackle.

When the other side agrees things with you they will think they are making good progress and are close to a final agreement, bringing in a new player can demoralize the opponents, making it more likely they will give more concessions.

This approach is related to the 'higher authority' method, where the needs of unseen other people are introduced. The zone defense enlivens this with actual other people being brought in. Be careful in this that the other people are competent negotiators or else are tightly scripted on what the can and cannot say.

See also

Change the Negotiator, No Authority

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