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How Negotiators Use the Power Persuasion Law of Expectations

- We see what we expect to see.

- We see what we want to see; we hear what we want to hear.

“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” - Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

“Positive expectations are the mark of the superior personality.”- Brian Tracy, Maximum Achievement: Strategies and Skills that Will Unlock Your Hidden Powers to Succeed

- Keep your expectations high on achievement and low on people.


Author Kurt Mortensen, in his book Maximum Influence: The 12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion, describes the influence of the Persuasion Law of Expectations.

Generally, one can say that one receives what one expects. Expectations have a high influence over how people behave and what they say. If people expect a person to do something or to achieve something, they often do.

Persuasion is a vital component of most negotiations and dispute resolution processes. Sometimes people need to be persuaded to get to the negotiation table or to participate in a dispute resolution process.

Mortensen defines persuasion as “a process of changing or reforming attitudes, beliefs, opinions or behaviors toward a predetermined outcome through voluntary compliance.”

In this book, Mortensen describes twelve persuasion laws. These laws are psychological both consciously and subconsciously. They are automatic triggers. They are neither good nor bad. They happen often beyond our control. And so with the Persuasion Law of Expectations, Mortensen places this law under the category of “Appealing to Human Nature.”

What is the Psychological Principle of the Law of Expectations?

People often live up to or down to the expectations of others. “Expectations influence reality and create results…Believing in the ability of another creates a positive atmosphere that makes it easier for the person to succeed.”

What are the Strategies Underlying the Law of Expectations?

A person’s expectations are often based on assumptions of how a certain group or certain person operates. This may be called “self-fulfilling prophesy.” Often people behave in the way that people expect them to. “Those expectations then become reality.”

Examples of the Law of Expectations.

The Pymaglion Effect is the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance.” The opposite of this is sometimes called “the golem effect," where low expectations in performance lead to a decrease in performance. Some researchers chart the correlation between leader expectation and follower performance.

The Rule of Anticipated Importance may be another example of the Law of Expectations. The law states that the media and reporters tend to focus on issues and politicians who they expect to matter. Thus, in 2015, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump received twice as much publicity as candidate Hillary Clinton.

Workplace Performance Plans revolve around expectations.

Workplace Staff Meetings: Many employees expect staff meetings to be long and boring and thus most, are.

(Personal note: When I directed a nonprofit organization, I wanted to transform expectations of staff meetings. I scheduled the staff meeting on Tuesday, not Monday, and at 10:30 AM when most people are at “the top of their game.” The staff meeting never lasted more than 30 minutes. Refreshments were provided. I believe that most staff actually looked forward to these meetings because of these different expectations.)

IMAX spends a lot of time at the beginning of each movie raising expectations of sound and picture. (IMAX is an abbreviation for Image Maximum, a motion picture film format.)

Famous violinist Joshua Bell performed at a metro rail station. Ho one expected it so hardly anyone contributed money to the violin case. He was playing his $3 million fiddle. More than 1,000 people passed by and did not stop. He did this social experiment on expectations twice in the District of Columbia with the same results.

Nonprofit Neighborhood Association: In DC, there was a neighborhood association where hardly anyone attended. The neighbors expected the monthly meetings to be long, boring and useless. A new president was elected. They transformed the meetings into vital ones. Each meeting featured a noted city leader introduced by the Council Member. It always began at 730 PM and ended at 9 PM. Thus neighbors began to expect the meetings to start on time, end on time, feature interesting people, etc. Attendance swelled to more than 40 neighbors.

The World newspaper reporter Nellie Bly is another expectation example. In England, Bly wanted to report on the horrible conditions at the Blackwell Mental Asylum. She could not gain access, so she got herself committed. After ten days, she had her story and was ready to be released, but everyone there expected her to be insane and they refused to release her. She finally got the newspaper owner to vouch for her. This was made into a Lifetime movie: Escaping the Madhouse: the Nellie Bly Story starring Christina Ricci and Judith Light.

How Can a Negotiator Use the Persuasion Law of Expectation?

Negotiators can use this law throughout the Negotiation Stages:

Negotiation Stage One: Planning

An effective negotiator wants other negotiators to expect goal-oriented negotiated efficiently. They want the other negotiators to expect to go through the logical step-by-step negotiation process that will lead to a workable agreement that more than meets the goals of all parties. An effective negotiator wants the other negotiators to expect that the so-called “other side” has most of the advantages and power that will lead to a do-able settlement.

Negotiation Stage Two: Introduction

During this introductory stage, expectations are described in re how the negotiation will proceed, how communication will flow, how long it will take and how it will end in an agreement.

Negotiation Stage Three: Claim Interchange

During this stage, each party will expect other parties to succinctly describe the facts as to which all parties should expect substantial agreement and then “perspectives.” Parties should expect agreement on the perspectives, aka “opinions,” but instead expect that each opinion will be heard and valued.

Negotiation Stage Four: Issue Identification

Effective negotiators will set the stage so that all parties will expect that the issues will be clearly defined and prioritized.

Negotiation Stage Five: Option Generation and Selection

An effective negotiator will set the stage so that all parties will expect creativity and brainstorming so that there are lots of ideas that will meet all of the issues described above. They will expect all options to be valued and given serious consideration.

Negotiation Stage Six: Agreement

Expectations will be set so that all parties will seek a mutually agreeable resolution that meets all issues described and all goals set forth. Parties will expect that there will be fair implementation and monitoring.


So, persuasion is involved in most negotiations and dispute resolution processes. Author Kurt Mortensen describes twelve Laws of Power Persuasion. These laws are triggers, automatic, neutral. They are active consciously or subconsciously. The Law of Expectation appeals to human nature. An effective negotiator can use this law throughout the entire negotiation from planning to agreement implementation.


See Recommended Books under “Blogs” drop down menu. Clicking on any book will lead one to the discounted Amazon site. Kurt Mortensen’s book, Maximum Influence is included.

Roy J. Lewicki is the author of 'Essentials of Negotiation', published 2015 under ISBN 9780077862466 and ISBN 0077862465. Publisher: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

The Conflict Resolution Training Program, Leader’s Manual, ISBN: 0-7879-6077-2. Prudence Bowman Kestner and Larry Ray

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