On Getting To Yes

I just finished reading the book Getting To Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury, & Bruce Patton. As the title suggests this is a book about negotiation. The main premise is that besides the two classical approaches to negotiation: soft or hard, there exists a third way that is neither hard nor soft. As the authors best frame it: “There is a third way to negotiation, a way neither hard nor soft, but rather both hard and soft. The method of principled negotiation development at the Harvard Negotiation Project is to decide issues on their merits rather than through a haggling process focused on what each side says it will or won’t do. It suggest that you look for mutual gains whenever possible, and that where your interests conflict, you should insist that the result be based on some fair standards independent of the will of their side. The method of principled negotiation is hard on the merits, soft on the people.”

After presenting this central idea, the book then goes into more details as to the issues that arise when using traditional negotiating strategies of positional bargaining. Then it goes on to address four main concepts for successful principled negotiation: separate the people from the problem (people), Focus on interests, not position (interests), invent options for mutual gain (options) and insist on using objective criteria (criteria). Finally the authors attempts to answer/provide further guidance in situations where the other side is more powerful, if they won’t play or if they are using dirty tricks. In doing so, one more fundamental concept is presented: BATNA. “The reason you negotiate is to produce something better than the results you can obtain without negotiating. What are those results? What is that alternative? what is your BATNA – your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement? That is the standard against which any proposed agreement should be measured. That is the only standard which can protect you both from accepting terms that are too unfavorable and from rejecting terms it would be in your interest to accept.”

Below are some additional excerpts I found particularly insightful:

-On Perception: “Ultimately, however, conflict lies not in objective reality, but in people’s heads. Truth is simply one more argument – perhaps a good one, perhaps not – for dealing with the different. The difference itself exists because it exists in their thinking. ”

-On Focusing on Interests, Not Positions: “Negotiating hard for your interests does not mean being closed to the other side’s point of view. Quite the contrary. You can hardly expect the other side to listen to your interests and discuss the options you suggest if you don’t take their interest into account and show yourself to be open to their suggestions. Successful negotiation requires being both firm and open.”

-On Inventing Options for Mutual Gain: “To invent creative options, then, you will need (1) to separate the act of inventing options from the act of judging them; (2) to broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer; (3) to search for mutual gains; an (4) to invent ways of making their decisions easy.”

A great book on negotiation, that is filled with practical advise. The authors illustrate their methodology through numerous examples/situations from a wide variety of fields (politics, economics etc.). If I had to have only one book on this topic, this would be the one!


Omar Halabieh

Getting to Yes

Getting to Yes


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