Not every negotiation you engage in, even if you are highly skilled, will be a success. Although the collaborative process of negotiation Ki ThoughtBridge teaches is designed to maximize your possibilities for achieving negotiation success, the process also anticipates the reality that no method or process of negotiation can guarantee success every time. This blog will explain how one simultaneously plans for the possibility of success and the possibility of failure at the same time. Below, in figure one is the Seven Element Negotiation process Ki ThoughtBridge recommends for important, complex negotiations. Six of the seven elements help you prepare for negotiation success. One, element, Alternatives, helps you anticipate and plan for failure. This blog is all about how to use your Alternatives in order to maximize your chances for success while protecting your interests in case the negotiations fail.
“Alternatives,” is a term of art used in this negotiation model. It refers to all of the things a negotiator can do on their own to meet their interests, without the agreement, approval or cooperation of other party or parties to the negotiation. Alternatives differ from options in that options require the other party’s approval to implement them, Alternatives do not. Options must be raised at the negotiation table, in order to implement them. Alternatives don’t have to be discussed with the other negotiators, you are free to implement them if you choose. For example, let’s say you just got a new job and you need transportation to that job. The interests, i.e., the underlying goals, needs, concerns and fears that underlie your goal of transportation include quick, reliable, safe, affordable, and environmentally clean and energy efficient transportation to and from work. To meet those interests, you plan to begin negotiations to buy a used car with a particular dealer.
As part of your preparation, for those negotiations you should take the following steps regarding your Alternatives:
You should only be at the negotiating table, if there is an opportunity to meet your interests even better than you could acting unilaterally, on your own without the other party, to satisfy your interests.
At the negotiating table.
When at the negotiating table, keep your Alternatives in your back pocket. Note, of the seven elements, Alternatives is the only one that has a yellow caution flag. The caution comes from the fact that using your BATNA can sound like or be perceived by the other party as a threat. Most people, when threatened, get defensive, angry, suspicious and less flexible and open with the person they perceive as threatening them. As a general rule, this is not the state of mind you want to create in the other negotiator when your goal is success.
However, there are two circumstances when you can ignore the yellow caution flag. Discuss your BATNA if the other party or parties to the negotiation underestimate your BATNA or overestimate theirs.
Some general advice: Don’t use your BATNA like a bat, i.e. a weapon to hurt the other person or to coerce them into doing something they don’t want to do. Even if you succeed, your success will be short lived. When someone is coerced, they find ways to undermine, or sabotage the deal as quickly as they can. If they really are stuck they will seek revenge later in a subsequent deal.
If you are dealing with someone who attempts to bully you with their BATNA, you have several choices:
Related Topics: Negotiation Skills, The Integrated Work of Leadership©, negotiation success, negotiation process