by Bob MacKenzie



ACAS is an acronym for The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service – a national UK-based organisation which specialises in providing arbitration services.


An advocate is a skilled negotiator who makes a strong case on behalf of a particular party in an attempt to obtain the most favourable outcome for them.


Arbitration is a set of formal, legal proceedings where, by mutual agreement of the parties, someone external (an arbitrator) is appointed to adjudicate upon the case of each of the respective parties who are involved in a dispute. The arbitrator hands down a decision, which can be legally binding or not, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, the appointment of an arbitrator is itself the outcome of negotiations.


BATNA is an acronym that means Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Developing a BATNA assumes that you cannot make a wise decision about whether to accept a negotiated agreement unless you know what your options are. On the basis of the strength of your BATNA, you can choose which of three options to follow:

  • Make concessions,
  • Attempt to re-open negotiations
  • Withdraw from the negotiations.

If you are convinced of the compelling strength of your BATNA and you think this is likely to enhance your negotiating position, it sometimes helps to make this clear to the other party. You should review your BATNA frequently, as the negotiation in which you are involved is dynamic, so the nature and perceived strength of your BATNA is open to change. What’s more, you may well have over-estimated its strength in the first place (see EATNA).

Bottom line

The bottom line is technically the last line of a financial statement, used for showing net profit or loss. By extension, it’s come to mean the final, determining consideration in a decision.


Conflict can be understood as a state of discord of action, feeling, or effect, or a condition of antagonism or opposition, regarding the interests or principles perceived by different parties.


EATNA is an acronym for Estimated Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. The term EATNA was coined by Guy and Heidi Burgess as an adaptation of BATNA, and arises from the proposition that sometimes our imagined options to negotiation are not as strong as we might initially think. We therefore need to run a reality check on them before deciding whether or not to pursue an alternative to a negotiated agreement.

The Give-Get principle

The Give-Get Principle assumes that in order to achieve our desired outcome, we need to be prepared to make concessions or trade. It also reflects a form of enlightened self-interest.

Ground rules

Ground rules are a set of basic procedures of conduct. The term originally came from baseball, where ground rules are used to specify the exact nature and dimensions of the ballpark. In the early 20th century, it began to be applied more generally as the basic or governing principles of conduct in any situation or enterprise. Initial ground rules are usually agreed at the early stages of a negotiation, and can be amended subsequently by common agreement.


Impasse refers to a condition of stalemate, or the failure to make progress towards resolution.


The term mediation describes a situation where a disinterested third party listens to all parties who are seeking to resolves their differences, and endeavours to assist them in coming to some agreement. This can sometimes require ‘shuttle diplomacy’, if the parties are finding it difficult to sit around the same table.


Negotiation is a process in which two or more parties – each with different starting points or perspectives – attempt to reach an agreement over the distribution of scarce resources when there is a conflict of interest.


Paradigm is something of a ‘weasel word’ that’s understood in different ways by different professional and intellectual communities. As used here, it’s perhaps best understood as ‘A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline’ (American Heritage Dictionary).


A party is a group of persons with common purposes or opinions who support one side of a dispute, question, debate or negotiating position.


Settlement refers to the resolution of a conflict or negotiation through agreement.


A stakeholder is any individual or group with a direct interest in the outcome of the negotiation, even if they are not present around the negotiating table.

Time out

Time out is a procedure – well known in American football – that is often a specific option provided for in the ground rules that are agreed in advance by both parties. During negotiations, either party can request private time away from the negotiating table in periods of uncertainty or at a crucial moment, to discuss tactics about what to do next. They use this time out to consult, reflect, consider next steps or calm down before re-engaging in negotiations.


WATNA is an acronym for your Worst Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Your WATNA is a good indication of how badly you need to reach a negotiated agreement.