Book Notes: Getting To Yes

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton
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Life is full of negotiating, we negotiate vastly more often then we would initially think. The problem is that most negotiation is based on bargaining over position – one side presents their offer and then a second party responds. This can result in poor results and an increased likelihood that the talks will break down.

The book encourages the use of conducting a principled negotiation where the goal is a wise outcome reached efficiently and amicably – work with the other party to identify the principles which you want to observe during the negotiation. Principled negotiation contains the following parts:

  1. Separate the people from the problem – be soft on the people and hard on the problem which can be conducted independent of trust. Treat each other as judges trying to decide on a case, not the prosecution and defence.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions – try to understand where the other party is coming from by exploring interests. Ask why? and why not?
  3. Invent options for mutual gain – from understanding the interests come up with creative solutions to satisfy both sets of interests with the aim to come up with multiple solutions which both sides are happy with, then decide later.
  4. Insist on using objective criteria – try to reach a result based on standards and be open to reason. Bow to principles not pressure.

You must prepare for negotiations – find objective criteria so that you can start with an informed position second be clearly aware of and strengthen your BATNA. Your BATNA is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Once you have this try to work to strengthen your BATNA so you can improve the balance of power so you are not locked into the negotiation and you know when it would be wise to walk away.

What if the other party won’t use the above approach? There are three things you can try: you can focus on the merits not the position through principled negotiation, else negotiation jujitsu, if all else fails try the one-text procedure.

Negotiation jujitsu – break the vicious cycle by not responding to the other sides attacks, they can attack by asserting their position forcefully, attacking your ideas and attacking you. Don’t attack their position, look behind it – ask questions to find out more about their position. Don’t defend your position, invite criticism and advice – this can turn it into a collaboration. Recast and attack on you as an attack on the problem – let the other side let off steam and don’t react. Ask questions and pause – people tend to feel uncomfortable with silence and will fill it with things which can help.

One-text procedure – use a third party who can gather the information about desires, not requirements themselves but the background to them. The third party produces a list covering the desires from both sides and invites criticism of the list. The third party then goes off and tries to come up with a solution covering all of the desires – this is then brought back and both parties are able to offer challenges. Some of these challenges might be addressable but at some point an option is presented which maximises the desires but might not be able to fully incorporate them all which both sides tend to accept.

What if the other side uses dirty tricks? – question the legitimacy of the tacktick with them. Don’t attack the people. Focus on interest not position. Invent options for mutual gain. Insist on using objective criteria.

Common tricks:

  • Fake data, get your own to validate.
  • Ambiguous authority, ask if the other side can actually commit if not then agree that you are coming up with a joint draft so there is realisation that if they change their position you can change yours.
  • Dubious intentions, if both sides have different solutions to one problem then taking the others solution can be combined with yours under certain conditions e.g. if two consecutive payments are not made.
  • Less than full disclosure is not the same as deception, you might want to use an independent third party which both parties can fully disclose to see if both parties have sufficient room to maneuver to both succeed.
  • Stressful situations, change them so your comfortable.
  • Personal attacks, recognising the tactic will nullify its impact.
  • Good guy/bad guy, once you spot it it has no impact.
  • Refusing to negotiate, try to understand why they don’t want to negotiate and propose principled negotiations as a way to allow them to take part.
  • Extreme demands, get them to rationalise their demands to the point they themselves realise they are futile.
  • Increasing demands each time you think negotiating is complete, take a break consider them when returning both sides will be more serious.
  • Lock-in tactics, play them down so that the other side has movement.
  • Hardhearted partner is not happy to accept whereas the negotiator is, get the hardhearted partner to agree to the principles in writing.
  • Calculated delay is a high cost game, highlight this and negotiate about the delay to give both sides time to come to an agreement but if there is a delay build your BATNA.
  • Take it or leave it, the best is to ignore this and keep negotiating as before.
  • Don’t be a victim, get the rules of the game on the table early so you know the game.

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