I was talking with a client last week who has a difficult relationship with a significant customer. What the customer is demanding my client to do would make him feel professionally compromised. He knows it is an inferior requirement.
By a mile.
We explored what would happen if he had a Plan B, a fall-back if he couldn't get an agreement with his client.
Think of such a relationship as requiring negotiation. Good negotiators always have options before they go into the negotiations.
But what if there are no options?
If you have no options, you are disempowering yourself.
Going into a difficult negotiation without options is disempowering yourself.
You see, going into a negotiation without a fall-back, without a no-deal option, means you are throwing yourself on the mercy of the other party.
You leave yourself with no alternative but that of having to get an agreement, any agreement.
So they can manipulate you.
In the Dealing with the Difficult Relationships Checklist, we use the concept that Roger Fisher and William Ury use in their book, Getting to Yes. It is the concept of BATNA, which is an acronym for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.
Having a BATNA gives you power as you go into negotiations. You are not needy. You don't need to give in.
Recently a government agency with whom I have worked for over ten years - and I have enjoyed serving them - wanted to change the terms of my contract in a very controlling way. A way which would have treated me as a commodity and not the consultant that I am who can add significant value to my client. I found it dishonouring and unbalanced.
My BATNA was to walk away. I decided that I didn’t need the work.
Government agencies like this rarely negotiate.
And, true to form, they didn’t.
So I walked away.
I was sad,
But I also felt powerful and free. I exercised choice rather than feeling coerced to comply.
I felt powerful and free. I exercised choice rather than feeling coerced to comply.
And this underlines another vital point: a BATNA has to be a real alternative to give you power.