Then there’s the opposite approach: Keep the sticky issues until the very end of the process.
You see this as a mutual strategy a lot in local labor negotiations, where the sides put off the difficult issues while they work out simpler matters. The hired guns negotiating the contract between the local teachers union and the board of education may spend a few weeks figuring out whether students should bring Macintosh apples or Delicious on Teacher Appreciation Day before tackling the health plan. This is different than one side holding off talking about the deal breaker, since it’s a mutual decision. What the negotiators are generally doing is trying to get a good read on the other side. They may not have dealt with each other’s negotiating team before; talking about relatively trivial matters gives them an opportunity to gather information about each other’s styles.
Of course, it also allows the other members of their team to gather intelligence and decide on the push. Delay sometimes is not so much a tactic as a signal that one side or the other is not ready to negotiate.
Macs are better, by the way, though if you really want a good apple, hunt up a McCoon.