March 26th, 2018

What is BATNA and How Can You Use This in a Negotiation, Especially with Difficult People?

BATNA is an acronym for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.  This article addresses the definition and how you can use it for a more effective negotiation, even with difficult people.

Generally, you know your starting point, called your position and you may be able to define the other side’s starting point, known as their position.  Knowing two positions you have a range of possible alternatives not knowing anything else including interests.

The next step is to determine your BATNA. That is, if you don’t reach at least this point in the negotiation you are prepared to walk away from the negotiation. That is your BATNA.  Going into a negotiation it is wise to determine your BATNA and what you believe to be the other side’s BATNA may be.

Why?

  • It helps drive the incentive to work together
  • It may help drive down the negative and competitive interactions at the bargaining table
  • It may allow for the generation of alternatives between your position and your BATNA to allow you to bring up alternatives that you may find acceptable (I generally recommend generating three alternatives between BATNA and your starting point)
  • Knowing the other side’s BATNA helps in understanding what you believe to be their interests
  • Knowing the other side’s interests can help drive a negotiation to an amicable solution
  • It allows you to leave a negotiation should your BATNA not be met.

Working with your team to determine your BATNA can be very powerful.  Negotiations can fail simply by not having determined the BATNA and thought about the other side’s BATNA ahead of time. When working with difficult people taking these actions is particularly useful. Trying to determine the other side’s BATNA can provide additional insights.  Taking actions like this can help you stay focused during the negotiations.   

With the information gained on determining your and the other side’s BATNA it may be possible to explore questions to be asked during the negotiation that may provide insights on interests not previously identified.  Open ended questions are often identified having gone through this process that can be invaluable in a negotiation. These can lead to a further understanding of interests not previously considered.  Keep this in mind with respect to any negotiation.

Contact Mike Gregory to speak to your group or consult with you, and check out his website, books and helpful content on the right side of his About page. Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA and a Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court, is an international speaker that helps others resolve conflict, negotiate winning solutions and inspire leaders by emphasizing collaboration. Mike services clients business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. Mike may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311.

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