BATNA and Other Sources of Power at the Negotiation Table

3 sources of power negotiators can use at the bargaining table

By — on / BATNA


Having a BATNA means a negotiator knows her best alternatives to a negotiated agreement and is one of three sources of negotiating power at the bargaining table, according to negotiation researcher Adam D. Galinsky and New York University’s Joe C. Magee:

1. Make sure you have a strong BATNA.

Your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, is often your best source of bargaining power.

By cultivating a strong outside alternative, you gain the power you need to walk away from an unappealing deal.

BATNA Example: A homebuyer could improve her power in a negotiation with a seller by finding another house she likes just as much.

BATNA Basics

Claim your FREE copy: BATNA Basics

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. The importance of role power.

Power can come from a strong role, title, or position, such as a high rank in an organization.

When negotiating with your boss, for instance, you sometimes may need to cede to his preferences because of his high status.

3. Psychological power can change negotiation outcomes.

Negotiators can bring a sense of psychological power to the table—the feeling that they’re powerful, whether or not that’s objectively the case.

Simply thinking about a time in your life when you had power can bolster your confidence and improve your outcomes, Galinsky and Magee have found.

Regardless of its source—a strong BATNA, a powerful role, or a feeling of power—power has the same consistent effects described in this article.

When preparing for a negotiation with a powerful counterpart, try to increase your own sense of power on as many of these levels as possible.

Related Dealmaking Article: Six Strategies for Creating Value at the Negotiation Table: The following six haggling strategies can give the skilled negotiator the upper hand in negotiations with sellers over a product. Read the following negotiation skills tips and negotiation strategies to learn how to maximize value at the bargaining table through distributive negotiation methods such as haggling.

Related Negotiation Skills Article: Are You Ready to Negotiate? – In negotiation, success and preparation go hand-in-hand. Follow these three negotiation skills tips to learn how the skilled negotiator prepares for her upcoming session at the bargaining table and how these three negotiation tips can improve your agreements.

Related Business Negotiations Articles: 
Advice for Bargaining Abroad: Tips on How To Overcome Cultural Barriers: How to handle difficult negotiations with a counterpart that is at a distance? The following negotiation skills tips can be applied to any business negotiation as well as any negotiation involving a fellow negotiator who is not physically present at the bargaining table.

The Deal is Done – Now What? – How to build long-term, sustainable relationships long after the negotiation agreement is signed. Many negotiators focus on the negotiation at hand, however, the best negotiators recognize that the current deal is a cornerstone in a potentially long-term relationship. Learn how to build value-creating, sustainable relationships with your negotiating counterparts and how the first deal can set the tone for all future interactions between negotiators. Whether business negotiations or in international negotiations, the ability to sustain a value-creating, mutually beneficial relationship is the hallmark of all skill negotiators.

What other tips could our readers use to improve their BATNA? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Related BATNA Article:  What is BATNA? How to Find Your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement

BATNA Basics

Claim your FREE copy: BATNA Basics

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 “Enhance Your Power,” first published in the August 2011 issue of Negotiation.

Originally published in 2014.

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4 Responses to “BATNA and Other Sources of Power at the Negotiation Table”

  • All of the three sources mentioned by the author are spot on. However, I would like to add one more source of power that is based on professional experience of dealing with sole source suppliers in the Procurement arena. This fourth source is what I call; Weakening or softening the other party’s BATNA. By creating a perception, based on broad factual information, one can weaken the BATNA of their opponent which in turn makes one’s own BATNA even stronger. This requires fair amount of research, competitive information and market knowledge relevant to the negotiations at hand. Needless to say, knowledge is power and using the knowledge tactfully in negotiations is what differentiates great negotiators from good ones.


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