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BATNA and the Significance of Alternatives

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What is the “BATNA” and what is the significance of “alternatives” in negotiation?

Parties negotiate in order to achieve a better result than they would be able to achieve independently of negotiating (or as an alternative to negotiating). A party may have any number of alternatives to those achievable through negotiation. The nature and extent of the alternatives available to a negotiator determine whether she will be willing to negotiate. If she is willing to negotiation, the alternatives available will determine the extent to which she is willing to “adjust” her position in the negotiation. Further, they may affect whether the parties see the negotiation as distributive or integrative in nature. The “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement” or “BATNA”, as the name implies, is the most advantageous alternative for a negotiator if no agreement is reached via negotiation. The BATNA may be a subjective preference. That is, another person in the same position may find a different alternative more attractive for any number of reasons.

• Discussion: Do you agree that the best available alternative to a negotiated agreement is the most important factor concerning an individuals willingness to negotiate? Can you think of influences that would cause one individual to value a particular alternative over another?

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