You and your BATNA (Part III)

Your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) helps you to determine how attractive a proposed negotiated agreement really is by considering what is likely to happen if a conflict is left unresolved. In Part II, I discussed the direct monetary costs that might be considered as part of a BATNA.

Especially difficult, yet often vitally important, is the calculation of indirect monetary and non-monetary costs if an agreement is not reached and a conflict continues. In some instances, the dispute will be resolved through litigation. Parties will need to consider how long it will take for the case to conclude, and how that will affect their business, family, or personal lives. Time and energy spent in litigation (consultations, depositions, trial, etc.) is time and energy taken from other pursuits. The indirect and hard-to-measure effect of loss of business goodwill can be substantial. The uncertainty of the final outcome of the dispute may inhibit or even freeze planning for the future.

For a family in conflict — whether in the context of a family business, an inheritance issue, difficulties in decision-making over a loved one’s care, or other challenges — the most significant costs in failing to reach a resolution as amicably and quickly as feasible may be impossible to quantify. What is the dollar value of preserving a family? For most families, this question can’t be answered and is painful to even consider. Yet in the heat of conflict, many overlook the long-term, potentially tragic results of an escalating conflict.

Better to use your BATNA and think very carefully about what is at stake if a conflict is allowed to fester and grow or is left for someone else (a judge, jury, arbitrator) to decide for you.

Posted in Basics of Mediation and Conflict, Saturday, June 30th, 2007

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