Strategies for Resolving Disputes
When negotiating an agreement, it is wise to keep a fall back plan. This is known in the world of negotiators as the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (“BATNA”). Having a strong BATNA helps parties negotiate from a position of strength. Parties without a BATNA may feel insecure and more likely to give in.
Do Not Have a Bottom Line
It is not a good idea to negotiate by focusing on a bottom line. When parties are concerned with a bottom line, they may give too much or take too little and end of feeling like they never really reached an agreement. Parties are likely to defend against the bottom line and make decisions against their own best interest. In the end, everyone ends up feeling tense, inflexible and less willing to find a mutually beneficial agreement.
Have a BATNA
In contrast to a bottom line, parties with a BATNA are not interested in the objectives of the negotiation, but rather the course of action if an agreement is not reached within a certain time frame. Having a BATNA is a constructive approach because a party is less likely to accept an unfavorable agreement or a self defeating one because there is a viable option outside of the negotiation.
Creating a BATNA
It is a challenge for a party to create a BATNA. The process involves problem solving, brainstorming and thinking of viable alternatives. By carefully reviewing options and broadly discussing and exploring alternatives, parties give themselves an opportunity to discover the most practical and attainable solution. Such a solution is likely to result in a strong BATNA.
Why Is It Good to Have a BATNA?
Having a BATNA is like having a home insurance policy. Even people with home insurance policies do not want their homes to burn down (for example). Clearly, parties start the process of negotiating with hope and the desire that a mutually agreeable decision will be reached. However, if it is clear that the negotiation is not leading to a beneficial outcome, the BATNA is on the back burner and the negotiator is aware of the consequences of failing to reach an agreement. In such an instance, the negotiator will be more willing to stop a process that is unproductive.
What if a Party Does Not Have a BATNA?
Without a BATNA, a party may feel unsure and shaky. The party may feel internal pressure to reach an agreement without awareness of what will happen if the negotiations fail. For example, they may be overly optimistic about proposed agreements which have realistic and unexamined problems. The parties may feel forced to reach an agreement and if they fail to do so, may feel very negative about further prospects of working through the issues with the other party.