The notion of a ‘tripwire’ is a highly practical concept supplemental to the BATNA that Fisher and Ury wrote about in Getting to Yes. If you are concerned about being influenced to accept – in the heat of the moment – an agreement you will later regret, use a ‘tripwire.’
The tripwire is a line you establish with yourself before negotiating. Up to that point you will accept an offer in an immediate interaction. If you cross that line into the territory of less attractive offers, then you take a break and reconsider before accepting.
If you are to receive money through a negotiated agreement, your tripwire is the lowest price you would be comfortable accepting without having to reconsider. It is not a bottom line because you are fully willing to accept a lesser offer than the tripwire, if you have time to think over the offer and it seems wise to accept. It is not a BATNA because it is advisable to leave some wiggle room between the value of a tripwire and the value of your BATNA, which is your best no-agreement course of action.
Two examples follow.
In the first example, you are an artist with a large inventory of unsold work built up over a couple of decades. The following interests inform the price you will accept for a piece of work:
-Seeing your work go where it is appreciated and valued
-Generating some revenue
These interests contribute to accepting a lower price. They are balanced against the inherent sense of value you place on the work and how that subjectively translates into a dollar amount.
In the second example, you have not been receiving court-ordered spousal support payments. The payment you will accept in a private negotiation is informed by interests:
-Getting something rather than nothing
-Avoiding legal action
-Avoiding interaction with your former spouse
All of these interests tend to have you satisfied with payments lower than the court-ordered amounts. But your sense of fairness and interest in your former spouse making a genuine contribution hold the dollar amount of an acceptable payment higher.
When employing a tripwire in these examples, you decide ahead of time the lowest figure you will accept during a phone call, meeting, or teleconference. The key point is not to agree to a price below your tripwire during an interaction. You may decide to accept such a price later following consideration, but your tripwire prevents you from being thrown off balance and influenced to enter an agreement you might later regret.