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The Walk-away Alternative


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation articles > The Walk-away Alternative

The walk-away | Fear and alternatives | The walk-away trap | See also


When negotiating, having a strong walk-away alternative can be very powerful tool.

The walk-away

What happens if you do not reach agreement in a negotiation? The answer is that you walk away from the other person with nothing to show for your time and effort with them.

The next question is where you walk to. If you have no alternative, then you may be left wandering in the wilderness. If, however, you already have an alternative with which you are satisfied then, although you would have liked to reach agreement, walking away is not such a bad thing.

The Walk-away Alternative is also known as a BATNA, or Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (Fisher and Ury, 1981).

Fear and alternatives

Having a strong walk-away alternative is more than just a comfort blanket. When a person in a negotiation realizes that agreement may not be reached, then they are forced to think about what they will do if this undesirable alternative occurs.

If a person does not have a very good alternative, then they may well be driven as much by the fear of not reaching agreement as by the prospect of reaching a satisfactory agreement. The thought of what happens if agreement is not reached thus replaces the thought of what happens if agreement is reached as the driving force for their actions.

The walk-away trap

Beware of the 'walk-away trap' whereby, having worked hard on developing your walk-away, you end up with a mentality that focuses too much on this.

By putting something in your subconscious, it easily becomes assumed as a possibility and then even a quite likely event. This can result that, without realizing it, you start bringing it up too soon, using it as a threat ('I do have alternatives') and so on, and so precipitate the event.

See also

Developing your walk-away, Deploying your walk-away, Motivating gaps

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