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What’s a BATNA and why do I need one?

Hands Holding Negotiation Multicoloured Word ConceptThe “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement” a.k.a. BATNA.

Why do you need one? If you are preparing to negotiate and you don’t know your alternatives you are more likely to agree to something you could regret.

Here’s a common example. You decide it’s time to replace your car, start looking at cars, and a salesperson approaches you. Her interest is to make a sale today for the most money possible. If you haven’t researched your options, you’re likely to spend too much money and make a choice you later regret.

So, how do you determine your BATNA?

First, brainstorm as many options as you can–don’t limit yourself. If you are negotiating support, alternatives to getting or paying the full formula include sharing additional costs like cell phones for the kids, paying a smaller or larger amount of educational costs, having your spouse pay fully or paying fully for health insurance for the children,  decreasing monthly costs like cable television, increasing income from other source, etc.

Next, narrow your options to those you would actually consider. It’s always better to have more than one BATNA if possible. It encourages you to negotiate assertively and get your needs met.

Then, gather quality information about the options you’ve selected. The more you know, the more confident and empowered you will feel to make good choices. Seek advice, read and research. Good information makes it less likely you will be persuaded to make a poor choice.

I say quality because opinions are just that–personal beliefs. I’m amazed how many times mediation clients say, “well my best friend told me…” as if it were fact. If their best friend is an attorney giving advice on the law, I might give it some weight, but if Fred simply had a bitter divorce, he’s not an expert.

Finally, give some consideration to your range and your bottom line. We all make trade-offs in negotiation and in life. I might be willing to pay a little more if I can get heated seats in my new car. But I also know if the price goes above a certain point or the dealer tries to talk me into a financing option I am not comfortable with, I need to walk away.

And above all, don’t forget to take the other person’s perspective into consideration. You’re more likely to succeed in a negotiation if both parties interests are fulfilled.

If you need help negotiating with someone else, a mediator can help by offering a structured process that surfaces the interests and needs of both parties.