The first sentence in a discussion anchors the rest of the conversation.

“I need him to shut up.”

“I don’t like what’s happening here.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

“The fact that we’re focusing on this issue is crazy.”

“They don’t know what they are talking about.”

“Who’s in charge here?”

“I’m in charge here.”

The first sentence of a blog post, the first sentence of an online status update, the first sentence of an email does the same thing.

In a negotiation, this tactic is called anchoring. It’s the process of putting an idea into another party’s mind about a topic of discussion, and then using that initial idea to push or pull the other party in a particular direction.

There is verbal and nonverbal anchoring. Anchoring occurs with signs and symbols. Anchoring happens when parties speak and when they are silent. Anchoring happens with body language.

People perform anchoring all the time, mostly unintentionally, but occasionally, someone “gets” it and intentionally chooses their words carefully and judiciously for maximum effect. And with the purpose of generating maximum conflict.

In any negotiation—along with management, facilitation, mediation, arbitration, or litigation—of a conflict, the person who establishes the anchor first has a greater chance to do better than the person who doesn’t. In this context “doing better” just means “getting an outcome that works for me.”

What outcome are you dropping an anchor for?

Jesan Sorrells

Jesan Sorrells

Jesan Sorrells is the CEO and Founder of Human Services Consulting and Training and leads on HSCT's flagship product, LeadingKeys. Contact him directly at