The dilution effect

January 23, 2024, by Marilou Migneault

Niro Sivanathan, a professor of Organizational Behavior at the London Business School, highlights that when you present a series of arguments, the most convincing ones can often get lost in unnecessary details.

Imagine it like adding dye to a water bottle. Initially, the water is vibrant, but as you pour more water, the color fades. The dilution effect happens when the standout feature becomes less obvious due to an influx of new information.

This results in a power loss, making the overall argument less impactful. Unintentionally, we dilute our strongest points—enter the dilution effect.

The effects

The problem with the dilution effect isn't necessarily the arguments themselves but how you deliver them. Instead of leaving an impression with the force of your most convincing argument, your conversation partner might walk away with a watered-down version of your points.

It's a reminder that quality is more important than quantity. What's even more critical is understanding that quality is subjective to the person you're talking to. Therefore, especially in negotiation preparation, it's key to grasp the motivations of the person across the table.

How to get prepared for a negotiation?

When preparing for negotiation, what's most convincing for one person may not carry the same weight for another. This is why Niro Sivanathan suggests a different approach: present a single argument—the one most likely to sway your counterpart. "It's all about control," says Sivanathan, recognizing that stopping at the first point can be a challenge.

How do you decide?

  1. List your main arguments.
  2. Rank them in order of relevance.
  3. Delve into the details of your first point to provide context. Don't forget to cite sources if needed.
  4. Repeat the process for the second argument.
  5. Select the argument that aligns best with the motivations of the person you're negotiating with.

"Above all, get comfortable with silence," advises Niro

Sivanathan. In negotiation and influence, silence is a potent tool. It gives you the time to think and adjust your strategies accordingly.