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7 Elements to Negotiation: Part 2, Alternatives

by Jeff Thompson
March 2009

From Jeff Thompson's Enjoy Mediation Blog

Jeff Thompson



Part Two: Alternatives

Figuring out your interests allows you to figure out your BATNA and WATNA.

It's ok if you are saying, "huh???"

BATNA and WATNA are acronyms for Best-Alternative-To-A-Negotiated-Agreement and Worst-Alternative-To-A-Negotiated-Agreement. You compare your alternative to the possible agreement that is on the table. You weigh your best alternative and worst alternative with the possible agreement and find out what is best for you. Actually, and this is very important, you need to find out what is best for you given the circumstances.

What do I mean? The agreement on the table might be better than your alternative, however in a perfect world, your alternative might be better. Confused? Read Part 3 and I promise that Options will explain it further.

You need to figure out what is best for you in the current situation by weighing it against your alternatives to getting an agreement. Figuring out your alternatives is key to your preparations for the negotiation.

Generally, you do not want to accept an agreement that is worse than your BATNA.

As is the case with finding interests, you also need to know your other party's alternatives. Just like you will weigh your potential agreement against your alternative, they should do the same.

If you are the mediator, this actually goes for the negotiator too, and a party to the negotiation does not know their alternative- help them! Yes, help them. As the mediator, you want to make sure your parties are informed.

There is a big a difference between giving advice and making sure they are aware of what will or will not happen if there is an agreement or lack of one. Raising awareness of the party's alternatives, especially in stalemates can help generate movement.

As the other party/negotiator, a great way to get the other party/negotiator to move towards a possible agreement is to get them to see that their alternative to an agreement will leave them worse off than the offer on the table.

Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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