Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)

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In negotiation theory, the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA is the choice of action that will be taken by a party if the current negotiations break down and an agreement cannot be reached. BATNA is a critical process and the guiding principle for a successful negotiator. A party should generally not accept an inferior resolution than its BATNA.

The BATNA is often conceived by negotiators not as a safety net, but rather as an asset in negotiations. Even though a negotiator’s alternative options should, in practice, be easy to evaluate, the attempt to understand which alternative symbolizes a party’s BATNA is often not invested.

BATNA was developed by negotiation researchers Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Program on Negotiation (PON), in their series of books on Principled negotiation that started with Getting to YES, unsuspectingly reproduced the game theory concept of a disagreement point from bargaining problems pioneered by Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash decades earlier.

A brutal, aggressive and to the point negotiation style is the framework approach most people have when it comes to negotiation, a theoretical example of that is Adversarial Approach Style Negotiation. But in practice, as mentioned by experts and researchers such as Fisher and Ury. This lets each party achieve its goals in a distributive way.

Attractive Alternatives is essential to develop a very strong BATNA. In Getting to YES, the authors give 3 suggestions of how this can be achieved

  • Inventing a list of actions you might take if no agreement is reached
  • Converting some of the more promising ideas and transforming them into tangible and partial alternatives
  • Selecting the alternative that sounds best

BATNA rules

A BATNA is not disclosed unless it’s beneficial. In negotiations involving cross-cultural exchange, all parties need to take into consideration cultural cognitive behaviors and not permit judgments and biases to affect the negotiation. The individual should be removed from the objective.

The purpose here, as Gulliver mentions, is for negotiation parties to be aware. Preparation at all levels, including prejudice-free thoughts, emotion-free behavior, bias-free behavior is helpful according to Morris and Gelfand.


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