BATNAS (Making Your Best Choice)

The first type of blinder is the simple failure to fully review all of your options (and the options of the other party) in a negotiation. 

This is one of the most basic principles in mediation and negotiation – called a “BATNA”: Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement.  In short, it means what is your best alternative if this deal doesn’t work out.  And the notion applies to both you and the other party. 

Reviewing your BATNAs carefully doesn’t just tell you how much leverage you have, it’s also about determining what matters most to you.  Sometimes people become so rigid in a negotiation because they’re afraid of losing something, but when they dig into it, they realize they have more options than they think.  When that happens, all of a sudden you become a more effective negotiator.

Frequently, people may think you know your BATNAs going into a negotiation, but unless you’ve done a full BATNA evaluation, you are probably leaving options unexplored. Going in to a negotiation without doing a thorough BATNA evaluation is like jumping on a trampoline in a dark room – you either hit your head on the ceiling because you couldn’t see it, or you don’t jump at all because you can’t see the ceiling.

As you evaluate your BATNAs, you might discover that you actually have multiple options that work for you, some of which you had hadn’t even considered. Each new option gives you more negotiating freedom.

As for the other party’s BATNA, if you don’t have a sense of their best options, you might mis-estimate how much leeway there is in the negotiation.  Not evaluating this is like driving down a dark road with your lights off.  You either get nowhere because you’re moving at a crawl, or you run over something because you couldn’t see it.  Knowing another party’s BATNA isn’t usually 100 percent knowable, but at least you’ll get headlights on the road.  Evaluating it carefully (and learning from the other party) can give you a lot more power and make you a more effective negotiator.  

Part of determining BATNAs comes from knowing the difference between your fundamental desires (interests) from your current demands (positions). 

This is another basic part of negotiation which I cover in the post Positions vs. Interests. In short, it means getting clear about what’s really important to you, and negotiating for that.  You would be amazed at how often people negotiate for things that they don’t even want.  It’s a huge blinder that limits everything in your life that’s connected to the negotiation.

The bottom line is that by discovering your most accurate BATNAs, you’re more likely to negotiate powerfully and successfully, while feeling better about the outcome of the negotiation itself.  You’ll have made your choices coming from a place of confidence about your objectives.

As I work with clients in their mediation or facilitation, helping you evaluate your BATNAs is one of the first steps in the process.