The term zone of possible agreement ZOPA , also known as zone of potential agreement  or bargaining range ,  describes the range of options available to two parties involved in sales and negotiation , where the respective minimum targets of the parties overlap. Where no such overlap is given, in other words where there is no rational agreement possibility, the inverse notion of NOPA no possible agreement applies. Where there is a ZOPA, an agreement within the zone is rational for both sides. Outside the zone no amount of negotiation should yield an agreement.
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Find out about our effort to help us all think through what we can do to help. In order for disputing parties to identify the ZOPA, they must first know their alternatives, and thus their "bottom line" or "walk away position. For example, Mary might have two potential buyers for her car. Mary is now negotiating with Fred. So, a zone of possible agreement exists if there is an overlap between these walk away positions. If there is not, negotiation is very unlikely to succeed.
This often happens when parties do not explore or understand their BATNAs well enough, therefore settling for less than they could have gotten elsewhere. Often parties may pretend they have a better alternative than they really do, as good alternatives usually translate into more power in the negotiations. Shared uncertainties may also affect the parties' abilities to assess potential agreements because the parties may be unrealistically optimistic or pessimistic about the possibility of agreement or the value of alternative options.
The nature of the ZOPA depends on the type of negotiation. The best one can do--sometimes--is split the desired outcome in half. For example, two people may be competing for one job. In the simplest case, there is no ZOPA because both people want the full-time job and either they or the boss is unwilling to offer them each a half time job instead.
So this is the prototypical win-lose outcome. One person wins, the other loses. On the other hand, integrative negotiations involve creating value or "enlarging the pie. That way both parties can "win," even though neither gets all that they originally thought they wanted.
In the example above, if rewriting the job description could create an additional job, then the distributive negotiation would change into an integrative negotiation between the employer and the two potential employees. If both applicants are qualified, now they may both get jobs. The ZOPA, in this case, exists when two jobs are created and each applicant prefers a different one of the two. New York: Penguin Books, Use the following to cite this article: Spangler, Brad.
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Skip to main content. This is the best course of action that a party can pursue if no negotiated agreement is reached. If you don't do better than that in the negotiation, you'll walk away. Additional Resources. More from Beyond Intractability.
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Zone of possible agreement
Every negotiator should understand at least three basic terms about negotiations. When used together, they can create a powerful framework to help you view each negotiation more analytically. BATNA answers the question: 'What would you do if you were not able to agree to a deal with your negotiation partner? But it is not all. The weakness of your own BATNA might not matter that much if the other side has no good alternative to doing business with you.
Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA)
Have you ever wondered what it takes to effectively prepare for negotiation success? Where there is a ZOPA, people usually reach an agreement. When the terms that both parties are willing to agree to overlap, there is said to be a positive bargaining zone. That is, the terms the buyer agrees to clearly align with the terms the seller is willing to accept. Take the sale of a used car, for example.