God doesn’t have a BATNA

Usually i’m a pretty balanced individual – especially in negotiations I often seek to better understand the other person’s perspective and incorporate aspects of it into my worldview. However sometimes I’m convinced that I’m just plain absolutely correct, producing an almost dogmatic certitude and unwavering desire to not concede any aspect of my ask. This potentially polarizing “winner take all” strategy is sometimes effective but obviously frustrating to others involved.

I’ve been on the other side of the table in these situations, perhaps no time more curiously than summer 1999 when I was performing acquisition due diligence on a genealogy company in Utah. My tasks consisted of necessary tediums such as inventorying the microfilm records of various 19th century immigration documents, but things got really interesting when we sat down to haggle on price.

It was my first negotiations with Mormons and I came away realizing that when you think you’re representing God, well, it can be tough to strike a deal. What i mean is, with their strong devotion to the Church and substantial tithing, the owners were negotiating on behalf of a higher authority. Being $500k apart on price didn’t mean the difference between an entry-level and S-class Mercedes to them, but rather a direct decrease in the amount of evangelism they could help fund. This can lead to a fervor at the deal table that beats the pants off of any slick M&A specialist. And so it didn’t surprise me when they got everything they asked for and then some because obviously God doesn’t have a BATNA.