Be Patient and Develop a Strong BATNA (Walk Away Power)

Is being patient in a negotiation challenging for you? Do you want to get the negotiation over with? Sometimes when a negotiation is moving slowly, we grow so frustrated that our emotions erupt and destroy the progress we’ve made. When you are in a rush, you are likely to make mistakes. Conversely, when you are flexible about time, you gain the advantage.

Jack Cambria, a former New York City Police hostage negotiator (, states that patience gives a negotiator time to develop rapport that leads to trust. He maintains that it is critical to remain patient and give the other party sufficient time to work through their emotions and expectations.

When the other party is in a hurry and you exhibit patience, they will recognize that you are not under pressure to conclude the deal. What do they do then? They offer concessions as an incentive for you to say, “Yes!”

Develop Your BATNA

According to Dr. Gabrielle Lopiano, professor at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University, your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is your biggest source of power in a negotiation. Being able to walk away is a safety net that allows you to ask for and claim more value. She suggests:

  • Develop a strong BATNA in advance of a negotiation. In other words, secure another offer (or multiple offers) you would be happy accepting should a deal not work out. Then signal your strong BATNA to your counterpart during the negotiation to leverage it. When your BATNA is strong, you’ll be less likely to make concessions.
  • Before and during the negotiation, consider the other party’s BATNA. Do research ahead of time and look for clues in their words or body language that signal how likely they are to walk away from the negotiating table. Being aware of your counterpart’s BATNA lets you know when to push and when to back off.

Preparation is key to a successful negotiation. To adequately prepare, you want to know your own interests, as well as your counterpart’s. Know what you’re willing to concede on and when you’re willing to walk away from the deal. You also want to be aware of your sources of power (e.g., a strong BATNA) and potential weaknesses (e.g., your counterpart having a strong BATNA) before you walk to the table. Being well-prepared for a negotiation will help you to remain calm and confident, and ultimately lead to greater value creation and value claiming.

Bottom line, by preparing in advance and equipping yourself with the best resources, you will build your confidence and be ready to handle any challenges that come up during the negotiation.