Posts tagged: WATNA


Much of what we do is about persuading – whether in a mediation, before a Tribunal or negotiating.  The key to successful persuasion is as follows:

Reciprocity: make the other side indebted to you – be a first mover and give something unexpected and, so far as possible personalised: “You have this room, it’s better and I have stocked it with my wife’s cookies”

Scarcity: don’t just emphasise the benefits of your position, what are its unique features and what will they lose if it is not accepted: “I am authorised to give you a special price not available to anyone else.  It is only available today.”

Authority: people are more generous to those in authority – an ethical, no-cost endorsement is valuable currency: Could your receptionist say “You are here to see Mr Ashford – we like him, always the gentleman and clients love him.”

Consistency: a big step often follows a small step – invite a small, voluntary and public step and build from there: “Could you see yourself paying a £1 to settle this … [establishes the direction of flow of money] … Could you see yourself paying £…”

Liking: people like to deal with people who they perceive as similar – pay compliments and co-operate towards mutual goals: from a main contractor to a sub-contractor “That was a very clever argument – how can we use that to get more from the employer”

Consensus: if similar people in the same position have acted in a particular way others are likely to follow – “The rest of the team have accepted a pay freeze, will you do the same”

Mediation Tip: Sometimes the other party is just more powerful than you

The most any method of negotiation can do is to meet two objectives: 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 any agreement you reach will satisfy your interests as well as possible.

To protect yourself, develop and know your WATNA / BATNA: Worst / Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement: for the reason you negotiate is to produce something better than the results you can obtain without negotiating. The result you can obtain without negotiating is between your WATNA and your BATNA.

The better your ATNAs, the greater your power so it’s essential to know your ATNAs and take time to make sure it’s as strong as it could be. The same will hold true for the other party. There are three steps to developing your ATNA:

  • Invent a list of actions you might take if no agreement is reached
  • Improve some of the more promising ideas and convert them into practical alternatives
  • Select, tentatively, the one alternative that seems best or reasonable worst case and value it as best you can

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