In their best selling book Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and William Ury talk about the shared interests of negotiating parties. A report in LikedIn Influencers highlights Virgin Airline's founder and billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson propounding the importance of protecting the downside. These notions bring us to an extremely important concept in negotiating. That concept is BATNA. BATNA stands for Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement. Specifically, BATNA is the list of your alternatives if negotiation is unsuccessful or if negotiation is not an option. This is exactly what Richard Branson is referring to when he talks about knowing or, to use his term, "protecting" the downside.

In conflict management, all the parties have some form of shared interest. For example, in large-scale international conflicts the parties' shared interests might include land use and sovereignty. In our constant everyday interpersonal interactions, shared interests might include the use of the copy machine. If not for a shared interest, there would be little motivation for anyone to negotiate.

Sometime's these interests can be quite subtle and transcend the negotiation parties' opening statements or even their manifest behaviors. In many conflict situations neither side is aware of these underlying, unexpressed, fundamentally shared interests. Each party's various interests, the roots of these interests, and behavioral manifestations of their interest should be primary concerns of both parties. The BATNA analysis is the first discovery step in the process addressing these concerns.

Although a BATNA analysis is simple, it's not particularly easy. It essentially consists of making a list of all the possibilities should the negotiation process fail. Each item on the list should have numerous sub lists in order to fully exhaust all of the ramifications of those possibilities. Often inexperienced negotiators will confer among themselves and determine the ideal negotiated outcome for the stakeholders or perhaps what they are willing settle for. But very often they don't consider or consider only cursorily what might occur if no agreement is reached or negotiations break down completely.

The value of doing a BATNA analysis is manifold. It forces one to consider all of the BATNA alternatives in the detail and fine focus that it should be given. It just may be that you should not even enter into a negotiation. This might not be known until the BATNA pros and cons are considered. Additionally, the BATNA analysis should include issues such as time, expenses, personnel expenditures, gain and loss options and resource allocation needs. The BATNA analysis invariable will lead to broader perspectives and fine-tuning of the negotiation strategies. Deeper perspectives will structure the angle and process of the negotiation interactions. Remember, deeper knowledge always structures direction and process. This occurs merely as a result of stepping back and doing a BATNA.

Now, here's the step that separates the beginners from the pros. After doing a BATNA analysis the pros will always do a BATNA analysis on the other party. Might it not be helpful to know if the other party or parties have financial or time restraints and to what extent? Might it not be helpful to know if this negotiation is something they are willing to go "all in?" Or, are they just going to give it the old college try and then go home.

Bill gates often talks about his friendship with Warren Buffet. Recently, he has written about what he's learned from Warren's investing strategies. Warren buffet told him that no matter how much money you have, you can't buy time. Time orientation is a salient aspect of the BATNA analysis; individuals and cultures consider it very differently.

An informative historical example of time orientation is the famous Paris Peace Talks commenced in 1968 for the purpose of ending the Vietnam War. It would appear that each side was unclear about the BATNA options of the other parties, especially those regarding time commitments. When the American negotiators arrived in Paris they got some hotel rooms. When the North Vietnamese negotiators arrived they leased homes and apartments! The final signing of the accord occurred on January 27, 1973, five year later! Moral of the story... know your BATNA and know the BATNA of the other parties. And, especially, try to accurately estimate the time orientation of all the negotiating parties. Time orientation cannot be overestimated.

You cannot possibly know all the options, outcome and hopes of the opposing party, but learning as many of these unknowns as possible should always be primary goal of pre-negotiation and certainly during negotiation. Don't be afraid to ask the other parties what they feel their BATNA options are. This type of questioning almost always produces unknown and sometimes transformational information. It's always useful information that can be vital and advantageous to your negotiation strategy.

The lesson here is to think BATNA prior to considering a negotiation of any dimension. Get into the habit of doing this, even for little everyday situations, and things will go smoother right from the start.

The lesson here is to think BATNA prior to considering a negotiation of any dimension. Get into the habit of doing this, even for little everyday situations, and things will go smoother right from the start.

Learn more about leadership, occupational stress, conflict management, change management, team development and motivational speaking at Ian Glickman Consulting. Visit our web site at

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Glickman is a psychologist licensed in Pennsylvania and Iowa. For ten years he was a professor at Immaculate University teaching courses in leadership, team development, occupational stress, conflict resolution, business communication, and human development. He was on the teaching faculty of the leading national healthcare Devereux Foundation’s Institute of Clinical Training and Research. Dr. Glickman studied extensively in Europe and Asia and earned his bachelors degree in Creative Intelligence from Maharishi European Research University, Selisberg Switzerland. His master’s degree is in Counseling and Human Development from the University of Iowa and his Ph.D. in psychology is from Lehigh University. Dr. Glickman has participated in numerous conflict resolution projects nationally and internationally. Due to his work at the Devereaux foundation, he is the former chairman of the Pennsylvania committee for stress-free schools. He is a Fellow at the American Institute of Stress and a Diplomate of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress with an additional certificate in war trauma. Dr. Glickman has had numerous TV and radio appearances. He’s lectured at Princeton and Harvard universities and has published in Princeton’s Innovations: The Journal of Science and Technology. Dr. Glickman has done innovative research on occupational stress and body types. He is a certified facilitator of the Steven Covey Speed of Trust Program. Dr. Glickman is a sought-after coach and speaker with years of consulting experience.