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In negotiation, BATNA refers to your “best alternative to a negotiated agreement,” or the best outcome you can expect if you fail to reach agreement at the bargaining table with your counterpart. An evaluation of your BATNA is critical if you are to establish the threshold at which you will reject an offer. Effective negotiators determine their BATNAs before talks begin.

When you fail to determine your alternative, you’re liable to make a costly mistake—rejecting a deal you should have accepted or accepting one you’d have been wise to reject. In negotiation, it’s important to have high aspirations and to fight hard for a good outcome. But it’s just as critical to establish a walkaway point that is firmly grounded in reality.

There are four steps to assessing your BATNA: List your alternatives; evaluate these alternatives; establish your BATNA based on these alternatives; and calculate your reservation value, which is the lowest-valued deal you are willing to accept. If the value of the deal proposed to you is lower than your reservation value, you’ll be better off rejecting the offer and pursuing your BATNA. If the final offer is higher than your reservation value, you should accept it.

One drawback to exploring your best alternative is in spending too much time and money in researching it. This can lead to a feeling of entitlement in negotiation, which may cause the negotiator to expect too much from the bargaining process.

Articles offer numerous BATNA examples and explore the concept of one’s BATNA, as well as how to effectively identify your BATNA in negotiations and how to use this knowledge effectively in any type of negotiation, whether in business, international, or personal negotiations.

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Business Negotiations

Effective business negotiation is a core leadership and management skill. This is the ability to negotiate effectively in a wide range of business contexts, including dealmaking, employment discussions, corporate team building, labor/management talks, contracts, handling disputes, employee compensation, business acquisitions, vendor pricing and sales, real estate leases, and the fulfillment of contract obligations. Business negotiation is critical to be creative in any negotiation in a business setting. Business negotiation strategies include breaking the problem into smaller parts, considering unusual deal terms, and having your side brainstorm new ideas.

Leveraging the contrast effect is also a powerful tool in negotiations. You might ask for more than you realistically expect, accept rejection, and then shade your offer downward. Your counterpart is likely to find a reasonable offer even more appealing after rejecting an offer that’s out of the question. Additionally, offering several equivalent offers that aim higher than your counterpart is likely to accept will elicit reactions that can help you frame a subsequent set that, thanks in part to the contrast effect, are more likely to hit the mark.

Building a team is critical to negotiations in business. To prevent conflicts among diverse, strong-minded team members from overshadowing group goals, negotiation teams should spend at least twice as much time preparing for upcoming talks as they expect to spend at the table. Because the other side will be ready and willing to exploit any chinks in your team’s armor, it’s important to hash out your differences in advance.

Other business negotiation tips include curbing overconfidence, creating value in the negotiation, establishing a powerful BATNA, effective use of emotions at the bargaining table, caucusing, delineating your zone of possible agreement, and other skills geared toward an integrative bargaining outcome rather than a distributive, or haggling, bargaining outcome.

In addition, considering the ethical and legal repercussions of a deal to insure that it is a true win-win is the hallmark of every experienced business negotiator.

Articles include many business negotiation examples, and explore concepts such as creative dealmaking, renegotiating unfavorable deals, seeking advice from a negotiation opponent, identifying a solid BATNA and crafting draft agreements.

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Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is the process of resolving a dispute or a conflict by meeting at least some of each side’s needs and addressing their interests. Conflict resolution sometimes requires both a power-based and an interest-based approach, such as the simultaneous pursuit of litigation (the use of legal power) and negotiation (attempts to reconcile each party’s interests). There are a number of powerful strategies for conflict resolution.

Knowing how to manage and resolve conflict is essential for having a productive work life, and it is important for community and family life as well. Dispute resolution, to use another common term, is a relatively new field, emerging after World War II. Scholars from the Program on Negotiation were leaders in establishing the field.

Strategies include maintaining open lines of communication, asking other parties to mediate, and keeping sight of your underlying interests. In addition, negotiators can try to resolve conflict by creating value out of conflict, in which you try to capitalize on shared interests, explore differences in preferences, priorities, and resources, capitalize on differences in forecasts and risk preferences, and address potential implementation problems up front.

These skills are useful in crisis negotiation situations and in handling cultural differences in negotiations, and can be invaluable when dealing with difficult people, helping you to “build a golden bridge” and listen to learn, in which you acknowledge the other person’s points before asking him or her to acknowledge yours.

Articles offer numerous examples of dispute resolution and explore various aspects of it, including international dispute resolution, how it can be useful in your personal life, skills needed to achieve it, and training that hones those skills.

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Crisis Negotiations

Crisis Negotiations

In examining crisis negotiation, analysts discovered that even the most experienced executives have difficulty resolving a situation that feels like a hostage negotiation. These lessons, taken from crisis negotiation situations and hostage negotiators’ techniques, can help in a variety of crisis negotiation conditions.

For example, hostage negotiators follow certain rules that can be applied to your own crisis negotiation. First, contain the situation by laying down ground rules and limiting the number of opposing parties in the negotiation.

Next, skilled crisis negotiators try to uncover underlying emotional demands, and finally take great pains to build relationships with the opponent. These strategies and more are all a part of successful crisis negotiations.

Even if you don’t aspire to become an actual hostage negotiator, any kind of business negotiation or dealmaking that comes under pressure can be enhanced by taking lessons from hostage negotiation experts. Not unlike integrative negotiators who seek to create value between negotiating counterparts and distributive negotiators who seek to maximize one’s claim to value in the negotiation at hand, hostage negotiators need to be able to “apply a specific set of skills in a strategic manner that is based on the current context.”

The goal of hostage negotiations is to “work with the person in crisis towards a peaceful solution that previously seemed impossible,” or, in other words, to reconcile your counterpart’s problems with the need to maintain the peace for society at large.

Articles included here address many of the tactics hostage negotiators employ, such as opening up avenues for communication, exercising as much patience as possible, employ active listening techniques, show your opponent respect, stay calm, remain self-aware and be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances, even while maintaining the relationships you’ve already built.

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Dealing with Difficult People

Dealing with Difficult People

Dealing with difficult people involves negotiating with counterparts you mistrust, dislike, or even think are "evil." Nonetheless, a skilled negotiator knows where to find and create value in any negotiation. When dealing with difficult people, integrative bargaining strategies, including knowledge of your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and ZOPA (zone of possible agreement), will help you overcome any perceived differences between yourself and your counterpart so you can succeed in dealing with difficult people in your next turn at the bargaining table, no matter of who or what your counterpart may be.

William Ury, author of Getting Past No: Negotiating with Difficult People, describes his five-step strategy for dealing with hard bargainers and difficult people. He calls his method “breakthrough negotiation,” a way to “change the game from face-to-face confrontation into side-by-side problem-solving.” These steps are:

  1. Don’t react: Go to the balcony – or anywhere you can go to step back from the brink.
  2. Disarm them by stepping to their side. One of the most powerful steps to take—and one of the most difficult—is to try to understand the other person’s point of view. Ask questions and show genuine curiosity.
  3. Change the game: Don’t reject—reframe. Instead of locking into a battle of will or fixed positions, consider putting a new frame on the negotiation.
  4. Make it easy to say yes. Look for ways to help your opponent save face and feel that he’s getting his way, at least in some matters.
  5. Make it hard to say no. Use your power and influence to help educate your opponent about the situation.

Other strategies for handling hard bargainers or unpleasant people include:

  • Sandwiching the "no" between two "yeses" to express your difference of opinion in a more positive light
  • Building a golden bridge to help your opponent view the outcome as a partial victory
  • Listening actively to disarm your opponent by asking open-ended questions

Articles explore other strategies such as saying “no” firmly, clearly, and in a way that respects your opponent’s position; active listening and asking open-ended questions; and allowing your opponent at least a partial victory to save face. Concepts covered also include how power affects negotiators, building trust, preparing for interactions with difficult people, and dealing with threats.

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Dealmaking is defined as the art of crafting deals through negotiations focused on an integrative, or value-creating process, rather than through distributive bargaining, or a haggling process. Dealmaking includes the range of activities both at the bargaining table and away from it that seek to bring two or more parties together toward some common end, whether it is the sale of an asset, a vendor agreement, or a merger between corporations. The Program on Negotiation emphasizes integrative bargaining in its dealmaking literature and teaches methods and techniques from this school of thought in its executive education courses.

In corporate dealmaking, much of the action happens away from the negotiating table. Successful dealmakers understand that deal set-up and design greatly influence negotiation outcomes and successfully closing a deal. Other critical factors in successfully making deals include strategic behavior – the unwillingness of one or both sides to make a best offer – psychological factors, lack of a deadline, poorly-prepared formal documents and refusal to allow the other side to make a graceful exit, even when they’ve agreed to your demands.

Strategies for successful dealmaking include tactics such as creating more value by exploring hidden interests and adding issues that appeal to your bargaining opponent. Another tactic is recruiting a third party mediator when the dealmaking process is at an impasse. Sometimes, Harvard experts find, it pays to be the first person to make an offer, while at other times, it pays to wait.

Articles from the Program on Negotiation focus on a vast array of dealmaking strategies, and explore the latest concepts such as expanding the pie, “negotiauctions,” anchors in negotiation and bartering.

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Dispute Resolution

Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution generally refers to one of several different processes used to resolve disputes between parties, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, and litigation. Dispute resolution is the process of resolving a dispute or a conflict by meeting at least some of each side’s needs and addressing their interests. Dispute resolution strategies include fostering a rapport, considering interests and values separately, appealing to overarching values, and indirect confrontation.

Conflict resolution, to use another common term, is a relatively new field, emerging after World War II. Scholars from the Program on Negotiation were leaders in establishing the field.

Mediation can be effective at allowing parties to vent their feelings and fully explore their grievances. Working with parties together and sometimes separately, mediators try to help them hammer out a resolution that is sustainable, voluntary, and nonbinding. In arbitration, the arbitrator listens as each side argues its case and presents relevant evidence, then renders a binding decision. Litigation typically involves a defendant facing off against a plaintiff before either a judge or a judge and jury. The judge or jury is responsible for weighing the evidence and making a ruling. Information conveyed in hearings and trials usually enters the public record.

There are many aspects of disputes, including value creation opportunities, agency issues, organizational influences, ethical considerations, the role of law, and decision tools.

Articles offer numerous examples of dispute resolution and explore various aspects of it, including international conflict resolution, how it can be useful in your personal life, skills needed to achieve it, and training that hones those skills.

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International Negotiation

International Negotiation

International negotiation requires the ability to meet special challenges and deal with the unknown. Even those experienced in cross-cultural communication can sometimes work against their own best interests during international negotiations. Skilled business negotiators know how to analyze each situation, set up negotiations in ways that are advantageous for their side, cope with cultural differences, deal with foreign bureaucracies, and manage the international negotiation process to reach a deal.

The Program on Negotiation notes that in any international negotiation, several critical tactics should be considered:

  • Research your counterpart’s background and experience.
  • Enlist an adviser from your counterpart’s culture.
  • Pay close attention to unfolding negotiation dynamics.

Researchers have confirmed a relationship between national culture and negotiation style and success. An ongoing project sponsored by Northwestern University’s Dispute Resolution Research Center is exploring the link between process and outcomes—specifically, how cultural tendencies lead to certain process choices, which, in turn, can lead to better or worse negotiation results.

For example, while conventional wisdom tends to hold that there’s strength in numbers, some cultures may dislike being faced with a sizeable negotiating team, poisoning the negotiations right from the start.

At the same time, diplomatic negotiations, such as those between the U.S. and Iran over nuclear capabilities, can be quite different from business negotiations. For example, it’s critical to maintain a reputation for impartiality, and to be aware how your international goals potentially interact and contradict, so you can establish a consistent stance in your relations with groups you are trying to woo.

Finally, due to the enormous influence of China in today’s world markets, PON offers numerous insights into Chinese negotiation styles, which include a strong emphasis on relationships, a lack of interest in ironclad contracts, a slow dealmaking process and widespread opportunism.

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Leadership Skills

People who leverage powerful leadership strategies are adept and skilled negotiators. Experience certainly informs these leadership skills, but negotiation training will take a negotiator's negotiation skills to the next level. Leadership skills and negotiation involves an analysis of complicated negotiation case studies as well as learning an array of sophisticated competitive and cooperative negotiating strategies.

Relationships are critical to leadership – in fact, they are as important to leadership as they are to negotiation. A relationship is a perceived connection that can be psychological, economic, political, or personal; whatever its basis, wise leaders, like skilled negotiators, work to foster a strong connection because effective leadership depends on it.

Positive relationships are important not because they engender warm, fuzzy feelings, but because they engender trust – a vital means of securing desired actions from others. Any proposed action, whether suggested by a negotiator at the bargaining table or a leader at a strategy meeting, entails risk. People will view a course of action as less risky, and therefore more acceptable, when its suggested by someone they trust.

The Program on Negotiation includes many articles on great leaders in negotiations, such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the late Russian Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Apple CEO Tim Cook, as well as other topics such as outstanding women leaders, interest-based leadership and ongoing stalemate between President Barack Obama and Congressional leadership.

Experienced executives and aspiring executives would both benefit from negotiation training like that found in the Program on Negotiation's spring and winter training courses, Negotiation and Leadership: Dealing with Difficult People and Problems, the Advanced Negotiation Master Class, held twice a year, or the summer Harvard Negotiation Institute. Perfecting your negotiation and leadership skills will enable a negotiator to negotiate in a variety of negotiation scenarios, improve relationships, create and claim more value at the bargaining table, and resolve conflicts.

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Mediation is a process of third-party involvement in a dispute. A mediator cannot impose an outcome but rather assists the disputing parties in reaching their own agreement. Mediation can be used in a wide range of disputes, including labor disputes, public policy disputes, disagreements among nations, family disputes, and neighborhood and community quarrels. According to research, about 80% of dispute mediations lead to resolution.

A mediator must be able to command trust and confidence by building a rapport with the parties in the mediation process. Opponents must feel their interests are truly understood, because only then can a mediator reframe problems and float creative solutions.

As compared with other forms of dispute resolution, mediation can have an informal, improvisational feel. It can include some or all of the following mediation techniques for conflict resolution:

Planning: Before the process begins, the mediator helps the parties decide where they should meet and who should be present.

Joint discussion: After each side presents its opening remarks, the mediator and the disputants are free to ask questions with the goal of arriving at a better understanding of each party’s needs and concerns.

Caucuses: If emotions run high during a joint session, the mediator might split the two sides into separate rooms for private meetings, or caucuses.

Negotiation: At this point, it’s time to begin formulating ideas and proposals that meet each party’s core interests—familiar ground for any experienced negotiator. A mediator can lead the negotiation with all parties in the same room, or may engage in “shuttle diplomacy,” moving back and forth between the teams, gathering ideas, proposals, and counterproposals.

These and other techniques and strategies are discussed in articles available at PON.

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Negotiation Skills

Negotiation Skills

Negotiation is a deliberative process between two or more actors that seek a solution to a common issue or who are bartering over an item of value. Negotiation skills include the range of negotiation techniques negotiators employ to create value and claim value in their dealmaking business negotiations and beyond. Negotiation skills can help you make deals, solve problems, manage conflicts, and build relationships as well as preserve relationships. Negotiation skills can be learned with conscious effort and should be practiced once learned.

Negotiation training includes the range of activities and exercises negotiators undertake to improve their skills and techniques. Role-play simulations developed from real-world research and negotiation case studies, negotiation training provides benefits for teams and individuals seeking to create and claim more value in their negotiations.

The right skills allow you to maximize the value of your negotiated outcomes by effectively navigating the negotiation process from setup to commitment to implementation.

Negotiation training courses include Negotiation and Leadership: Dealing with Difficult People and Problems, the Advanced Negotiation Master Class, Harvard Negotiation Institute programs, and the PON graduate seminars.

This training allows negotiators to:

  • Acquire a systematic framework for analyzing and understanding negotiation
  • Assess and heighten awareness of your strengths and weaknesses as a negotiator
  • Learn how to create and maximize value in negotiations
  • Gain problem-solving techniques for distributing value fairly while strengthening relationships
  • Develop skills to deal with difficult negotiators and hard-bargaining tactics
  • Learn how to match the process to the context
  • Discover how effectively to manage and coordinate across and behind-the-table negotiations
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Negotiation Training

Negotiation Training

Negotiation training refers to the range of activities and exercises you can undertake in order to improve or sharpen your negotiation skills. Featuring articles discussing the latest role-play simulations and field research, negotiation training will also publish articles on effective negotiation training for you and your organization as well as the research work of pioneers in the field of negotiation. View Posts 

Teaching Negotiation

Teaching Negotiation

Teaching negotiation includes instructional areas such as deal setup and design, dispute resolution systems, arbitration, mediation, and meeting facilitation as well as the use of interactive role-play exercises, books, videos, training materials and role-play simulations designed around a specific negotiation skill or concept. The Program on Negotiation’s educational resource center, known as the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC), develops a wide-range of role-play simulations –including the popular Sally Soprano negotiation case study — interactive teaching exercises, books, videos, and scholarly papers devoted to the application of teaching negotiation and training effective negotiators.

Materials in the TNRC cover negotiation-related issues in areas ranging from climate change to ethics. Many of the themes are substantive (e.g., environmental negotiations or business negotiations), some target specific sectors (e.g., health care industry), or address particular contexts (e.g., cross-cultural negotiation skills) while others are more process oriented (e.g., facilitation).

The most popular simulation topics include:
Real Estate
Public Policy
Teaching in Law
Water Management Simulations

In addition, once a year, the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School selects an outstanding individual who embodies what it means to be a truly great negotiator. To earn the Great Negotiator Award, the honoree must be a distinguished leader whose lifelong accomplishments in the field of dispute resolution and negotiation have had compelling and lasting results.

To help students and professionals learn valuable lessons from these highly skilled negotiators, PON’s Great Negotiator Case Study Series features in-depth studies such as Stuart Eizenstat: Negotiating the Final Accounts of World War II and Lakhdar Brahimi: Negotiating a New Government for Afghanistan.

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Win-Win Negotiations

Win-Win Negotiations

Win-win negotiations are those negotiations in which each party walks away from the bargaining table having achieved its goals within the confines of an integrative, or value-creating, bargaining process rather than through a haggling, or distributive, bargaining process. Win-win negotiation is a principle feature of integrative bargaining and is promoted by the Program on Negotiation throughout its literature and research. Win-win strategies are all about increasing your opponent’s satisfaction even as you achieve the outcome you desire.

Using these strategies can also be a powerful tool of persuasion when faced with tall odds or powerful opponents. Examples of win-win negotiations are delivered throughout the Program on Negotiation site, from Mayor Michael Bloomberg versus the New York teachers’ union, to an end to the NHL lockout, to the use of win-win strategies in the intractable Middle East, to Disney Corp.’s purchase of Lucasfilm.

Some examples of win-win strategies:

  • Skilled negotiators manage expectations prior to and during a negotiation. Some managers do this instinctively. They also avoid making concessions too soon to avoid increasing their opponents’ expectations.

  • Ensure that our opponent perceives his outcome as beneficial by being modest about your gains from a deal, and commend your counterpart for his hard bargaining.

  • Give your negotiation counterpart a voice in the decision process. Even when you’re in a position of power, be sure to acknowledge your counterpart’s perspective and invite him or her to express his views, to suggest alternatives, and to react to initial proposals. You can also enhance perceptions of fairness after an outcome has been reached by providing detailed explanations for unappealing actions or outcomes.

The Program on Negotiation also discusses tactics such as this:

  • Share information: Instead of assuming your interests are directly opposed to your counterparts’ interests, provide information that could lead to wise tradeoffs

  • Reject the “fixed pie:” It’s easy to assume that the pie of resources to allocate is fixed; when in fact there are opportunities to expand the pie by creating value.

  • Avoid anchoring on the first offer: Don’t become overly affected by the first number entered into the negotiation.

  • Set concrete goals: By setting concrete goals in advance, you won’t be swayed by other’s influence tactics, vivid stories, and hard bargaining techniques.

  • Avoid dwelling on the past: Past investments should rarely affect our decisions about the future

  • Take your time: When you’re pressed into making snap decisions, your thinking will be more intuitive and less rational

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