GRIT Tension Reduction Strategy

GRIT Definition

GRIT Tension Reduction StrategyGraduated Reciprocation in Tension reduction (GRIT) was proposed by Charles Osgood in 1962 and refers to a method of restoring negotiations between two parties who are deadlocked. GRIT reestablishes negotiations by urging one side to initiate a concession. According to the norm of reciprocity, people are expected to reciprocate benefits from others. Therefore, when one side offers a concession, the other side should feel responsible for making a concession in return, and this exchange encourages the negotiation process to begin again.

GRIT History and Modern Usage

Osgood’s proposal for GRIT originates in the context of the Cold War and concern about nuclear weapons. Specifically, the United States and Russia tried to surpass each other with advancements in nuclear weapons to feel more secure. Ultimately, this intensifying quest for nuclear weapons threatened the stability of the world. Osgood devised GRIT as a way to calm this escalated tension. GRIT consists of two main steps, which are repeated until the two involved parties reach an agreement. First, the initiating party must announce an intention to cooperate with the other side and make a unilateral (one-sided) concession. The initiating party must also communicate an expectation that the concession will be reciprocated (matched) by the opposing party. Second, the opposing party should reciprocate the concession made by the initiating side. The two sides should continue reciprocating concessions until an agreement is reached.

To make GRIT an effective process, there are some additional conditions that must be met. First, the initiating side should not make a concession that threatens its own security or ability to defend against a hostile act. The concession should also not indicate weakness, in which case the opposing side may feel motivated to bargain tough (e.g., not make a concession). Second, the initiator of GRIT may have to make a second or third attempt before capturing the attention of the other side. Third, should the other side abuse a cooperative act by the initiating party, the initiator should retaliate and state the purpose of the retribution (i.e., to show that the abuse will not be tolerated). Then, the initiating party should instigate another cooperative act. In addition to drawing on the norm of reciprocity, the effectiveness of GRIT depends on building trust between the two sides. Research indicates a high level of cooperation resulting from GRIT. This strategy has also effectively been used to reduce actual conflicts. For example, Anwar Sadat made an unprecedented trip to Jerusalem in 1977 to establish trust between his nation (Egypt) and Israel. This initiative led the way for a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1978.


  1. Lindskold, S. (1978). Trust development, the GRIT proposal, and the effects of conciliatory acts on conflict and cooperation. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 772-793.
  2. Osgood, C. E. (1962). An alternative to war or surrender. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.