Negotiating Survivor: 3 Crucial Deal-Making Strategies

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A Closer Look at How the Art of Negotiation can Help a Survivor player with Mike Botta

Rob Cesternino (@RobCesternino) is joined Negotiations expert Mike Botta (@MichaelBotta) for a closer look at three of the most important principals of a negotiation strategy.

Lesson 1: It’s all about the BATNA

BATNA, or “best alternative to a negotiated agreement,” is the fundamental concept of negotiation. In short, you need to know what all of your options are and be prepared to choose the best one, even if the best option requires deviating from the easy course since it’s less likely to be successful in the end. Sometimes, that means walking away from a deal at the bargaining table, but sometimes it means making a deal with the devil. To truly be successful here, you have to do more homework and do your best to understand all of your opponent’s options too. In most circumstances, you should assume that your opponents will chose their best options as well, and you can set about trying to make those options less appealing if they conflict with yours.

Lesson 2: Lead with interests, not positions. Or in other words, “explain why before you say what.”

Lead with the “why” to bring people along to your way of thinking. You might even learn something – there could be a better option to meet your goals than the one you thought of. Even better, lead with your opponent’s interests first, then explain how what you want to do helps meet their interests.

Lesson 3: Build a golden bridge for your opponent

To get an opponent to make a major change in their course of action (e.g. defecting from their allies or participating in a blindside), you have to help create the story that they will tell themselves and others about why this was the right option for them. Thousands of years ago, “The Art of War” provides the example of a victorious army offering to build a beautiful golden bridge for their opponents to cross in retreat, giving them the ability to return home looking successful to their people despite what was actually a defeat. Today, we see this most frequently in situations like union/employer negotiations, or Presidential endorsements. In Survivor, both throughout the game and at the final tribal council, to move hearts and minds, you need to provide a narrative that helps others save face.

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