What You'll Learn
  • A Red Herring is used to divert a party's attention from critical issues and thereby gain some advantage
  • Use of a red herring poses serious risk to the relationship and are not recommended to be used in collaborative negotiations
  • Defenses against Red Herrings are sticking to the agenda and Probing

Recognize Red Herrings

Diverting a party's attention from the real issue to something tangential or unrelated, thus allowing the diverting party to gain some advantage.


Expect this tactic to be used as part of one of these Negotiation Strategies (competitive, collaborative, avoidance, accommodation, compromise) and in these stages of the Negotiation Process (Preparation, Exchange, Bargain, Conclude, Execution).

Negotiation Strategies: Collaborative and Competitive
Negotiation Stages: Exchange and Bargain


Don't Use Red Herrings in Collaborative Negotiations

When a Red Herring is used to divert a party's attention from critical issues and thereby gain some advantage, there is serious risk to the relationship. This use is not recommended in collaborative negotiations because it erodes trust and negates the fundamental premise of two sides working together to achieve mutual gain.

Defend Against Red Herrings

There are preventive and defensive measures for the Red Herring.

Prevention. You can prevent the other side from using a Red Herring to distract you from the real issues with tangential or unrelated concerns by having followed BNP: 11 Develop a joint agenda. When the discussion veers off course, keep focus by sticking to the agreed upon agenda.

Defense. Your primary defense against the other side using a Red Herring to distract you from the key issue is BNP: 16 Use the Power of the Negotiator's Probe. Ask open-ended questions to determine the relationship of the Red Herring to the items on the table for negotiation.