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The willingness to walk away and being aware of when to do so is a popular negotiating strategy. Knowing your BATNA gives you the confidence to do just that if discussions aren’t making meaningful progress. (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

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Negotiation strategies: tips on getting what you want and finding middle ground when you need to

Knowing your BATNA, showing patience and not making it personal are among the best ways to be successful

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Whether you’re working out a contract for a new job or finalizing a business partnership, the benefits of being a strong negotiator can have a big impact.

In their bestselling book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, co-authors Roger Fisher and William Ury established the term now widely used at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation as a foundational strategy—, or Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.

The willingness to walk away and being aware of when to do so . Knowing your BATNA gives you the confidence to do just that if discussions aren’t making meaningful progress. Fisher and Ury offer :

Separate the people from the problem

Human beings are emotional, opinionated and often have different personal views. Overcome this potential barrier by viewing the negotiation as two sides working together to solve a problem, rather than one person trying to defeat the other.

Focus on interests, not positions

Discussing personal positions on a topic can bog things down and create an environment where people become more focused on saving face rather than working together. For example, one side could be strongly conservative while the other regularly takes risks. However, during any given negotiation, the agreement that serves both parties best might happen to involve taking more risk, or vice versa.

Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do

Trying to hammer out the optimal version of a single idea narrows the mind and creates a counterproductive negotiating environment. Instead, brainstorm multiple possible outcomes that allow for open-minded discussions, a strategy Fisher and Ury refer to as inventing options for mutual gain.

Insist that the result be based on some objective standard

When facing a particularly stubborn negotiator, find middle ground by insisting on an outcome based on an acknowledged existing standard such as market value, unbiased expert opinion or law.


Check out CPA Canada’s webinar, Dialogue gap: How bridging the chasm between communication and understanding affects profits, to help further develop your professional communication skills.


Keep these points in mind before getting into the discussion process.

Agree on what the negotiation will cover and who will take part in it.

People like to be heard and respected. It can go a long way towards an agreeable outcome if you take time to let the other party express their views without interruption.

Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential negotiators in history and patience was one of his greatest strengths, along with a willingness to make concessions on non-critical issues while remaining immovable on critical ones.