Carnegie Mellon University


The Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society

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Negotiation Basics

Negotiation Basics Part - I

Negotiation Basics Part - II

About: This module teaches you about the basics for negotiation. This includes the common vocabulary used across the rest of the modules and in negotiation in general.

Suggested Time Allotment: 15 minutes

Below are the three things to do as you plan your negotiation.

Size up the Situation: Before entering a negotiation, you need to think about the environment surrounding the negotiation. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many parties or sides are involved?
      • How many people or groups are in this negotiation? Every negotiation has at least two sides (you and the person or group you need to negotiate with). However, sometimes you will need to negotiate with three or more individuals or groups, and sometimes there are other interested parties that will join a negotiation.
  • How many issues are to be negotiated?
      • How many specific things need to be negotiated? For example, are you just negotiating about something like salary? Or are there other factors of your job that can be negotiated, too, like benefits, flex time, hours, etc.?
  • What is the nature of your relationship with the other parties?
      • Is your relationship short-term or long term? Is there any history and will there be any future interactions?
  • What timing factors are involved?
      • Is there a time limit for this negotiation? Is there a good reason to wait or a good reason to move quickly?

 Identify Interests vs. Positions: When negotiating, it is important to focus on your interests rather than your position. Your position is what you are asking for, but your interests are the reasons why you want it.

Focusing on interests rather than positions can help you better negotiate for what you want. First, it helps you understand that there are usually many different ways of getting what you want. There are often creative solutions that can help you reach a mutually beneficial deal. Interests also help you understand what motivates others to work with you. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your position (what you say you want)?
  • What are your interests (why you want it)?
  • What is the other side’s position (what they say they want)?
  • What are the other side’s interests (why they want it)? 

Know Your Negotiation Parameters: Negotiation parameters help you think about the negotiation strategically. Learn the vocabulary below, and always plan for your negotiation by knowing the negotiation parameters.

Know Your BATNA: BATNA stands for your Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. This is what you will do if you don’t negotiate, or if you do negotiate but can’t reach an agreement.

Decide on Your Reservation Value: Your Reservation Value is the minimum you will accept before walking away from the negotiation and settling for your BATNA. Your Reservation Value is not what you want, but it is the thing that’s just a little better than your BATNA. You need a Reservation Value so you don’t accept a worse deal than you had before!

Establish your Aspiration Value: Your Aspiration Value is what you aspire to, or what you would be thrilled with. Make sure that you set this target high, but it must be realistic enough to pass the ‘laugh test’ – you can’t want to giggle as you ask for it! Do some research to determine what is ambitious but not unreasonable to ask for.

Know the Other Side’s BATNA, Reservation Value, and Aspiration Value: Prior to entering your negotiation, it is key to gather information about the other sides’ BATNA, Reservation Value, Aspiration Value.  You may not know exactly what these are, but the more you know the better able you are to negotiate well.

Look for the ZOPA: ZOPA stands for the Zone of Possible Agreement. This is the zone in which an agreement can be negotiated, or the many possibilities between your reservation value and the other party’s reservation value.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my BATNA?
  • What is my Reservation Value?
  • What is my Aspiration Value?
  • What do I think about the other side’s BATNA?
  • What do I think about the other side’s Reservation Value?
  • What do I think about the other side’s Aspiration Value?
  • What do I think about the ZOPA?

Remember, the following things are also important:

Gathering Information: Think about the information you need to gather to figure out what your best strategy is for meeting your interests/goals. Gathering information can and should happen at all stages. Ask yourself the following question:

  • Where could you get information that will help you know exactly what to ask for, how to ask, or how to make a better case when you ask?        

Practice: After you have explored the basics of the negotiation and understood the negotiation parameters, it’s time to practice negotiating. This toolkit is designed to help you do just that.

ZOPA : Zone of Possible Agreement

BATNA : Best alternative to a negotiated agreement

Aspiration Value : The Aspiration Value is defined as the outcome with the highest value at which a negotiator places some nonneglible likelihood that the value will be accepted by the opponent (White & Neale, 1994)

Reservation Value : The least favorable point at which one will accept a negotiated agreement