Last updated: March 24, 2019
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In the negotiating world it is becoming more and more common to encounter unequal parties. The number of big corporations and big “business men” is growing by the day, as is their power, connections and “powerful weapons” which creates an unequal bargain between the parties. Does this mean that little companies and individuals don’t stand a chance at a fair negotiation? Not at all! We all have “assets” that can be used to our advantage as long as we know how.

There are essentially two objectives that can help us take action: “first, to protect you against making an agreement you should reject and second, to help you make the most of the assets you do have so that the agreement you reach will satisfy your interests as well as possible” . Protecting yourself Protecting yourself sometimes becomes a difficult task when you are on the opposite side from the “power”. You get become “panicky” or too accommodating, forgetting that you have something the other party wants, assets.

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A good way to overcome these issues is to stipulate a bottom line – what you consider the worst acceptable outcome. This is a good tool to resist pressure, especially if you have someone on your side to help reinforce that limit. On the counter side, this “help” can be costly (when it involves brokers, agents…) and, too rigid, limiting our imagination and creativity to invent other solutions that could better respond to both parties’ intentions. To overcome this “incapacitation” and to make the most of the whole negotiation process, you should know your BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiation Agreement.

By know your BATNA (a measurement tool) that not only gives you better standards but is also more flexible then bottom line solution, it allows you to use imagination and invent other solutions that better satisfy our interests, but it may also be to uncertain, not giving you an actual limit. Conclusion, both bottom line and BATNA aren’t good enough for every negotiation you may encounter. That is why you should always formulate a trip wire, which functions in a similar way to the bottom line. The only difference is that the trip wire has a margin with which, worst case scenario, you can still work with. Making the most of your assets

When negotiating with a more powerful party you can’t just play on the defensive side (protect yourself), otherwise the whole negotiation process serves no purpose. You must know how to explore you position in full, especially your assets, the reason why you are on the “opposite” side of the negotiation table. The best way to explore your assets is to develop your BATNA. You must explore it in a way that allows you to “greatly strengthen your hand” , in other words, you must explore attractive alternatives. You can start by inventing alternatives to the negotiation in hand, in case it falls through, have other options thought out.

Then you should also try to materialize your alternative options, and, last but not least, you must select which is the best alternative among them all, which is the most realistic and tangible one to pursue next. Essentially this three step process is all about having a “backup plan”, just in case the negotiation in hand falls through. A very interesting question emerges: should you disclose your BATNA to the other party? The is no direct answer to this question, it depends on how good your alternatives are, how much better or worse it is then the current one you are in and above all, it depends on the other party’s BATNA.

When deciding how to proceed you should have all these elements in mind and upon that make a decision on whether to disclose your BATNA or not. Conclusion Not being the “powerful one” in the negotiation doesn’t mean you in disadvantage. If you have assets you have merits and principles that you can use to your advantage, it’s just a question of effectiveness. If you utilize your BATNA to its best, developing and improving it, you can obtain a comfortable position that allows you to easily walk away from a negotiation. Both parties in a negotiation have assets and therefore have equal positions but different negotiating tools.

It is a question of how well they can convert the resources they have into effective negotiating power. Now that we can conclude that physical and economic power isn’t the same as negotiation power and that the apparently “weak link” can also obtain and improve their negotiation power, it is important to not forget that negotiation is not a gunfight in which only one party can win. Mutual gain is not only a possibility but it is the real purpose of negotiating, satisfaction of both parties be reconciling their interests and not there positions.