Dealing With Unreasonable People the BATNA Framework

Most people working on projects realize that in the long run it is beneficial to work toward mutually satisfying solutions. Still, occasionally you encounter someone who has a dominant win/lose attitude about life and will be difficult to deal with.

Fisher and Ury recommend that you use negotiation jujitsu when dealing with unreasonable people, such as this person. That is, when the other person begins to push, don’t push back. As in the martial arts, avoid pitting your strengths against another’s directly; instead use your skill to step aside and turn that person’s strength to your ends.

When someone adamantly sets forth a position, neither reject it nor accept it. Treat it as a possible option and then look for the interests behind it. Instead of defending your ideas, invite criticism and advice. Ask why it’s a bad idea and discover the other’s underlying interest.

Dealing with unreasonable people framework

Those who use negotiation jujitsu rely on two primary weapons:

  • They ask questions instead of making statements. Questions allow for interests to surface and do not provide the opponent with something to attack.
  • The second weapon is silence. If the other person makes an unreasonable proposal or attacks you personally, just sit there and don’t say a word. Wait for the other party to break the stalemate by answering your question or coming up with a new suggestion.

The best defense when dealing with unreasonable people, or win/lose negotiators is having what Fisher and Ury call a strong BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). They point out that people try to reach an agreement to produce something better than the result of not negotiating with that person. What those results would be the true benchmark for determining whether you should accept an agreement. A strong BATNA gives you the power to walk away and say, “No deal unless we work toward a win/win scenario. ”

Your BATNA reflects how dependent you are on the other party.

If you are negotiating price and delivery dates and can choose from a number of reputable suppliers, then you have a strong BATNA. If on the other hand there is only one vendor who can supply you with specific, critical material on time, then you have a weak BATNA. Under these circumstances you may be forced to concede to the vendor’s demands.

At the same time, you should begin to explore ways of increasing your BATNA for future negotiations. This can be done by reducing your dependency on that supplier. Begin to find substitutable material or negotiate better lead times with other vendors.

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