Path to enduring agreements: build trusting relationships; share interests; create value as you address interests; distribute that value.
Do you talk about your other negotiation options, or BATNAs?
By Thomas Wood
There is almost always a time and a place to talk about your other options if this agreement can’t be reached on mutually beneficial terms. Sometimes disclosure of your options pushes the parties to find agreement. But when and how to disclose your other options?
“It depends” is the most comprehensive response, but not a very helpful one. To make this posting easier to read, let’s refer to your Plan B, or other options, as BATNAs – best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Here are a few thoughts:
Never do this: Never reveal a weak BATNA
- Assess the relative strengths of each side’s BATNAs. Yours may be strong, but is theirs stronger?
- Weak BATNAs are not taken seriously, thus eroding your credibility.
- Revealing a weak BATNA gives the other side confidence to negotiate for even better terms.
Timing: Pick a good time; don’t worry about the best time.
- Regardless of the strength of your BATNA, it’s not usually wise to reveal it too early in negotiations. Why? It can be interpreted as a threat. This often brings out a more aggressive nature in your counter-part, and in a tense negotiation, can easily escalate conflict.
- Once a major or difficult issue has been resolved to the parties’ mutual satisfaction, it is usually safe to refer to your BATNA. Your counterpart already knows you are investing the same effort and time to reach agreement.
- When asked directly. But don’t feel that full disclosure is necessary to maintain trust. Acknowledging that you have other options (assuming you do) is appropriate, and noting a name, type, can leverage the power of your BATNA.
How to reveal a BATNA in Negotiations
- Referring or hinting at a BATNA is often appropriate and rarely harmful
- It’s ok to be vague. If pressed, it’s ok to say that you’re not here to talk about your other options, but to see if agreement can be reached.
- A conversational tone helps to ensure you don’t sound threatening. The idea is to demonstrate your power without damaging a good relationship.
- And it's almost never a good idea to reveal the details of your BATNA! If your counterpart knows those details, he/she is likely to offer you something just a bit better -- your Least Acceptable Agreement (LAA), and you are likely to take it.
- Your BATNA is only as good as your willingness and ability to execute!
- BATNA bluffing is very risky, lest the other side backs off entirely, or discovers your ploy and loses trust in you.
- And if you don’t have a BATNA, start building options for next time.