The Top Three Defensive Negotiation Strategies You Need to Know

Negotiate without bias by knowing your best alternative to a negotiated agreement

By on / BATNA

What are the Top Three Defensive Negotiation Strategies You Need to Know?

In the course of a career, a negotiator will confront many skilled persuaders. Here, we review three defensive negotiation strategies a negotiator can employ.

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare (for your negotiations).

Prepare systematically and thoroughly for your negotiations by rigorously analyzing your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA; evaluating the zone of possible agreement ZOPA); and investigating all the issues at stake. Well-prepared negotiators are unlikely to accept a subpar offer simply because of how it is framed.


Discover how to unleash your power at the bargaining table in this free special report, BATNA Basics: Boost Your Power at the Bargaining Table, from Harvard Law School.


2. Separate information from influence.

Your counterpart’s statements (like your own) are inevitably one part information, one part influence. Your task: to separate information from influence before you react. When someone makes an argument or request that seems compelling, ask yourself questions such as these:

  • If anyone else made this proposal,would I be willing to agree to it?
  • Would I have agreed to this proposal yesterday, or even an hour ago?
  • Can I defend my compliance to my colleagues and my boss?

3. Rephrase the other side’s offer. Mitigate the impact of influence strategies by rephrasing the other party’s requests.

Suppose that someone says, “I’d like you to agree to this proposal because I think it’s fair.” Consider how this statement sounds minus the justification: “I’d like you to agree to this proposal.” Suddenly it’s less persuasive. Similarly, if someone offers you several small payments, think about whether the proposal would be as attractive if you received one lump sum.

Related BATNA Articles: Dealmaking – Six Strategies for Creating Value and Claiming Value Through Haggling –  To claim value (and create value) in your next haggling experience, use the following six negotiation tips from the Negotiation newsletter. For example, explore alternatives to the negotiation at hand. In most haggling negotiations, preparation beforehand is not only recommended, it can save money or help negotiators find areas for value creation with their counterpart. In particular, it helps for a negotiator to know her BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) before entering into any haggling business negotiation. Knowing a negotiator’s reservation price – the highest price at which a negotiator would pay in the negotiating scenario – can empower a negotiator to walk away from a bad deal and seek a better bargain with a negotiating counterpart employing a more integrative bargaining approach.

Dealmaking – Assess Their Alternatives – Similarly, being able to assess a counterpart’s potential BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) can also help business negotiators seeking to create value at the bargaining table in business negotiations as well as help her preserve and claim more value in negotiations involving a negotiation strategy of haggling. In this article, the importance of a thorough examination of a counterpart’s BATNA and ZOPA is explained and some dealmaking tips are offered for negotiators seeking to create and claim the most value out of her negotiations.

Better Predict Your Negotiation Behavior – Knowing how a negotiator will behave in a given negotiating situation can help her prepare to avoid mistakes in future  business negotiating scenarios.


Discover how to unleash your power at the bargaining table in this free special report, BATNA Basics: Boost Your Power at the Bargaining Table, from Harvard Law School.


Adapted from “Pitch Your Offer and Close the Deal,” first published in the August 2008 Negotiation newsletter.

Originally published in 2013.

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