Skilled negotiators pay attention to each other’s needs and interests. But they are not negotiating to solve each other’s problems. They are negotiating to achieve their own objectives. Agreement is only a means to an end. The purpose of negotiation is to seek to satisfy your interests either through an agreement, or outside one, whichever yields the most favorable outcome.

One reliable way to achieve your goals is to acquire and use leverage. To a large extent, your leverage depends upon having alternatives, and one way to improve your leverage in negotiations is by improving your alternatives away from the negotiating table. Even if the situation does not appear favorable, you may have alternatives to a bad (from your perspective) agreement.

Know your own walk away alternatives—and that of the other party.