Getting To Yes- Book Summary

Getting to Yes – by Roger Fisher and William Ury

Getting to Yes is a national bestseller that was published in the early 80s with the intent to study and improve successful negotiation tactics. To start, they want to set some guidelines for what makes a negotiation successful. They judge a negotiation on three criteria:

  • Should be produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible
  • It should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties involved
  • It should be efficient (no time wasted)

Positional Bargaining – What we want to avoid is what the authors call positional bargaining – basically what you would call haggling: you start your sales price at $100, the counter offer is $40, and you go back and forth until it is finally negotiated to a price both can agree on. This is inherently dishonest and inefficient. The other problem is that it locks your ego in with your position. you tend to get locked in and want to stay consistent/save face because of what you have said in the past. There is also the risk that due to the emotional investment, anchoring and  arguing over positions that no deal will be made at all. Additionally, with positional bargaining, the more people that are involved in a negotiation, the more serious the drawbacks to positional bargaining. It is also not an answer to be a soft negotiator because it leaves you vulnerable to the other person that is playing hardball. In positional bargaining, the negotiating game is biased in favor of the hard player. There is a comparison between the hard and soft negotiator on page 9.

What is the alternative?? The game of negotiation takes place at two levels: it addresses the substance, and it addresses the procedure for dealing with the substance. The goal is not to decide between Hard and Soft positional bargaining; rather it is to say ‘neither’ and change the game (sounds like Tim Ferriss). The goal here is on Principled Negotiation or Negotiation on the merits. This can be reduced to 4 basic points:

  1. People – separate the people from the problem. You want to keep the emotions out of the negotiation as much as possible. You want people attacking the problem, not each other.
  2. Interests – focus on the interest, not positions. You want to satisfy their underlying needs. Thus you need to understand what it IS that they actually want.
  3. Options – generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do
  4. Criteria – insist that the result be based on some objective standard. Market value, expert opinion, custom, standard, law, etc. that can be used objectively.

There are three stages to a negotiation, each dealing with the four elements above:

  1. Analysis – Where you are trying to diagnose the situation, gather information and organize it. understand the people issues involved, note the options already available.
  2. Planning – Generate ideas and decide what you are going to do. Generate additional options and criteria for deciding.
  3. Discussion – Join to seek agreement on objective standards for resolving opposed interests. Generate options that are mutually advantageous.

Separate the people from the problem

Remember that negotiators are people first, they have emotions, values, different backgrounds, different viewpoints. They are unpredictable, and so are you. If you fail to deal with other people sensitively as humans prone to human reactions, it can have disastrous results for a negotiation. Always ask yourself “Am I paying enough attention to the people problem?”. Every negotiator has two kinds of interests: the substance and the relationship. The goal should always be to have a customer become a regular one. You also want to work on the ‘people problem’ by bringing it up: “where perceptions are inaccurate, you can look for ways to educate. If emotions run high, you can find ways for each person to let off steam. Where misunderstanding exists you can work to improve communication.” People problems typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Perception – “Understanding the other side’s thinking is not simply a useful activity that will help you solve your problem. Their thinking is the problem” You have to realize that objective reality lies in their heads. Facts, even if established may not do anything to solve your problem. So what can you do??
    • Put yourself in their shoes- how you see the world depends on where you sit. This is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess.
    • Don’t deduce their intentions from your fears – do not assume what you fear is the same thing that the other side intends to do.
    • Don’t blame them for your problem – it is usually counterproductive, cause them to become defensive, they will stop listening
    • Discuss each other’s perceptions – “communicating loudly and convincingly things you are willing to say that they would like to hear can be one of the best investments a negotiator can make. Remember, you first need to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perceptions
    • Look for opportunities to act inconsistently with their perceptions – the idea is to break their assumptions of you. See page 27 for example.
    • Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process – Give them the ownership. “if you want the other side to accept a disagreeable conclusion, it is crucial that you involve them in the process of reaching that conclusion”
    • Face saving: make your proposals consistent with their values
  • Emotion  – Emotions on one side will generate emotions on the other. In negotiations, the stakes are high and feelings are threatened
    • First recognize and understand emotions, theirs and yours – Write down what you feel, do the same for them. Ask yourself why you are having these emotions.
    • Make emotions explicit and acknowledge them as legitimate – Talk to the other side about their emotions. “It does not hurt to say ‘You know, the people on our side feel we have been mistreated and are very upset…. Do the people on your side feel the same way?'”. This shows some vulnerability which opens up the discussion.
    • Allow the other side to let off some steam – People obtain psychological release through the simple process of recounting their grievances
    • Don’t react to emotional outbursts – One example had a group that implemented a rule that only one person could get angry at a time. If you break the rule, that implies that you have lost self control and you lose face.
    • Use symbolic gestures – on many occasions a genuine apology can defuse emotions effectively
  • Communication – Without communication there is no negotiation. There are a couple of issues that can come up in a negotiation
    • Negotiators are speaking to impress third parties or their own constituency. They try to talk the spectators into taking sides.
    • People not listening to each other – they are too busy trying to think of what you wills ay next that you forget to listen to what the other side is saying now.
    • Miscommunication, or being misinterpreted.
      • Communication issues can be solved by:
        • Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said – don’t be afraid to say something like ‘did I understand correctly that you are saying that…’ Remember that understanding is not agreeing. You can understand the other side, but still disagree with what they are understanding
        • Speak to be understood – a negotiation is not a debate or a trial.
        • Speak about yourself, not about them – It is more persuasive to describe a problem in terms of its impact on you than in terms of what they did or why: “I feel let down” instead of “you broke your word”. A statement about how you feel is hard to challenge.
        • Prevention works best – The best time to handle people problems is before they become people problems
        • Build a working relationship – The more quickly you can turn a stranger into someone you know, the easier a negotiation is going to become.
        • Face the problem, not the people – It is more effective for parties to think of themselves as partners in a hardheaded, side-by-side search for a fair agreement advantageous to each.
      • The summary of the communication issues is to deal with people as human beings and with the problem on its merits.

Focus on Interests, Not Positions

  • Look for the difference between positions and interests- you want to focus on the latter. Interests are what motivate people. There are several good examples on pages 40-41. The most basic illustration is that two people are arguing over an orange, both believe they are entitled to it and neither wants to budge. This illustrates their position: the desire for the orange. What they do not know unless they can uncover it is that one of them wants the orange to make orange juice, the other wants the peel for a sauce they are making. This is their interests:  you want to reconcile the interests. “Behind opposed positions lie shared and compatible interests, as well as conflicting ones.” The authors use a landlord-tenant relationship to show the shared, indifferent,  and conflicting interests:
    • Shared interests
      • Stability
      • Well maintained apartment
      • Good relationship with one another
    • Not conflicting but differing interests
      • Tenant may not want to deal with fresh paint, the landlord does not want to pay the cost of repainting the other apartments
      • Landlord wants security of a down payment today, the tenant is fine with that as they are willing to pay.
    • Conflicting interests
      • Price for the apartment is all that remains to be settled. It is best to look at the market for rental properties to help define this.
  • The problem with interests?
    • Interests tend to be unexpressed, intangible, and even inconsistent
    • You need to understand theirs as well as yours… how do you do this??
      • Ask “Why?” – not only for justification of their position, but to understand the needs, hopes, fears, and desires that it serves.
      • Ask “why not?” – Think about their choice
      • Realize each side has multiple interests
      • Write down interests, make a list of all of the ones that may be on either side.
  • Interests cont’d
    • The most powerful interests are basic human needs
      • social economic well-being
      • sense of belonging
      • recognition
      • control over one’s life
  • Communicating interests
    • Talking about interests- you want the other side to know what your interests are.
      • Make your interests come alive, be specific. Having concrete details not only make a description credible, they add impact.
        • As long as you do not imply the other side’s interests are unimportant or illegitimate, your an afford to take a strong stance.
        • If you want the other side to take your interests seriously and appreciate yours, make sure you begin by demonstrating that you appreciate theirs
    • When you talk about the problem, put the problem before the interests
      • instead of “we believe you should…” give your interests and reasoning first and your conclusions or proposals later. Otherwise the other side will not be listening to your reasons and be trying to come back with a defensive.
    • Look forward, not back
      • Talk about where you want to go rather than where you have come from – page 53
    • Be concrete, but flexible
      • Convert your interests into concrete options
      • Treat the options you create as “illustrative specificity” that takes care of the interests. Baseball contract example on page 53-54
    • Be hard on the problem, soft on the people.
      • It might not be wise to commit yourself to your position, but it is wise to commit yourself to your interests.
      • They should know you are attacking the problem, not them**
      • Use the power of cognitive dissonance – page 55
        • People dislike inconsistency and will act to eliminate it. For example, “if you attack a problem, such as speeding trucks on a neighborhood street, and at the same time give the company representative support, you can create cognitive dissonance for him. To overcome this dissonance, he will be tempted to dissociate himself from the problem in order to join you in doing something about it.
      • Successful negotiation requires being both firm and open

Invent options for mutual gain

  • Figure out how to expand the pie before deciding it up
  • There are 4 obstacles that inhibit the inventing of options
    • Premature judgement
      • Judgement hinders imagination
    • searching for the single answer
      • for most people, inventing is not part of negotiating. People see their job of narrowing the gap between positions, not broadening the options available
    • assuming a fixed pie
      • People assume it is ‘either-or’ “either i get it or you do”
    • thinking that “solving their problem is their problem”
      • People think that ‘we have enough problems of our own, they can look after theirs
  • Prescription is a 4-step process
    • Separate the inventing from deciding
      • Use a brainstorming session to create as many ideas as possible.
      • Brainstorming keys for success on page 61
      • Brainstorm on your side and consider brainstorming with the other side as well.
    • Broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer
      • use the brainstormed ideas to think about the problems and generate constructive solutions
      • The circle chart – page 68
        • Think about a particular problem
        • thinking about a descriptive analysis
        • consider what ought, perhaps, to be done
        • Come up with some specific and feasible suggestions for action
      • Look through the eyes of different experts
      • Invent agreements of different strengths in case the sought after agreement is out of reach.
    • search for mutual gains
      • Identify the shared interests (see the last chapter)
        • Always ask “do we have a shared interest in preserving our relationship?”
      • Dovetail differing interests – when each side wants different things (orange peel example)
      • There is a whole list of things that one party might be more interested in than the other on page 74
      • “Look for items that are low cost to you and high benefit to them, and vice versa”
    • Invent ways to make their decision easy
      • Your task is to give them an answer, not a problem. to give them an easy decision vs. a tough one.
      • Evaluate an option from the other side’s point of view – how might they be criticized if they adopt it? This will help you think from their shoes, what restraints the other side is working with.
      • Understand the other side’s constituents “why are they saying these things”
      • Test an option by writing it in a ‘yes-able proposition’ where they can finish the negotiation with the single word ‘yes’

Insist on using objective criteria

  • You want to use a benchmark- the more objective the better. If you are negotiating on the basis of will you will run into major differences of interest. The goal is to negotiate on some basis that is independent of the will of either side.
  • You want to be open to reason, but closed to threats. The goal is to reach a solution on principle, not pressure.
  • Principled negotiation produces wise agreements amicably and efficiently.
    • Refer to a precedent and community practice
    • It protects a relationship
    • This method is much more efficient
    • You want to appear and feel ‘reasonable’
  • How to develop objective criteria, and how to use them in negotiation
    • Use ‘fair’ standards
      • market value
      • precedent
      • scientific judgement
      • professional standards
      • etc.. rest of list is on page 85
    • Fair procedures
      • The age-old way to divide a piece of cake between two children: one cuts, the other chooses. Neither can complain about unfair division. There are a few variations of this – see page 86-87
    • Negotiating with objective criteria
      • Frame each issue as a joint search for obj. criteria
      • Reason and be open to reason on what standard is most appropriate
      • Never yield to pressure, only to principle
    • “Look, you want a high price and I want a low one. Lets figure out what a fair price would be”
      • ask ‘what is your theory’
    • Insisting an agreement is based on objective criteria doesn’t mean that it be based solely on the criteria you advance
      • Be open to reasonable persuasion on the merits
    • Never yield to pressure, it can take many forms:
      • bribe, threat, manipulative appears to trust, or simple refusal to budge
      • Never yield to pressure, only to principle
    • There is a really good anecdote on how to handle this on page 92-94. How to use objective criteria in a negotiation

What if they are more powerful? Develop your BATNA

  • BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. This is your power in a negotiation – especially negotiating with a more powerful opponent.
  • In response to power, the most any method of negotiation can do is to meet two objectives
    • To protect you against making an agreement you should reject
    • To help you make the most of the assets you do have so any agreement you reach will satisfy your interests when possible
  • Protecting yourself
    • Do not use a bottom line – definitive number
      • it locks you and limits your ability to benefit from what you learn during a negotiation
        • By definition, a ‘bottom line’ is a position that is not to be changed
        • it inhibits imagination
        • It is almost certain to be too rigid
    • Know your BATNA
      • BATNA is basically what you will do if you are unable to come to an agreement
        • This is the standard against which you should measure any proposed agreement.
      • Insecurity of an unknown BATNA
        • Most circumstances, you are too committed to reaching an agreement. If you have not determined your BATNA, you are too pessimistic about what would happen if negotiations broke off
    • Formulate a trip wire
      • “don’t sell the house for under $160k until you have talked to me”
  • Making the most of your assets
    • The greater your BATNA, the greater your power
    • How to develop a BATNA: Page 103-104
      • Invent a list of actions you can take if no agreement is made
      • Improve some of the more promising ideas and convert them into practical alternatives
      • Select the one alternative that seems the best
    • Consider the other side’s BATNA- the more you know about their alternatives, the better prepared you are for negotiation
    • As a side note- it seems like preparation is the theme of this entire book. To be a good negotiator, you need to really know your stuff and their stuff too.
    • Negotiating with a more powerful opponent
      • A BATNA helps you negotiate on the merits

How to use Negotiation Jujitsu

  • 3 basic approaches to getting their attention on the merits:
    • what you can do – focus on the merits. It can be contagious
    • Focus on what they may do – ‘negotiation jujitsu’
    • Focus on what a 3rd party can do
  • Negotiation jujitsu
    • How do you prevent the cycle of reaction?
      • Don’t push back- refuse to react
      • Deflect attacks against the problem
      • “rather than resist their force, channel it into exploring interests, inventing options for mutual gain, and searching for independent standards.”
    • Attacks- Their ‘attack’ will consist of 3 maneuvers:
      • Asserting their position forcefully
      • Attacking your ideas
      • Attacking you
    • One way to counter is to unsimplify the other side’s requests if they seem unreasonable – example on page 110. If they present an unrealistic option, show them how it really isn’t an option in from your viewpoint.
    • Don’t defend you ideas, invite criticism and advice
      • Ask them what is wrong with it
    • Recast an attack on you as an attack on the problem
    • Ask questions and PAUSE
      • Ask questions instead of statements. They generate answers where statements generate resistance
      • Silence is one of your best weapons – use it. If they make an unreasonable proposal you might be best off not saying a word.
        • Don’t take them off the hook by going on to another question or comment of your own. some of the best negotiating is done when you are not talking.
    • Use the “one text procedure” where there are different interests, make one change at a time until both sides can start to agree.
      • Prepare a draft and ask for criticism – there is no commitment here necessary.
    • There is a successful role play of a negotiation on page 117-128 that uses a principled approach to get to the desired result.

Taming the Hard Bargainer

  • Most people will give in once and hope the other side is appeased and not ask for more. This often fails and they will continue to take you to the cleaners.
    • You need to focus on ‘principled negotiation’
  • If you catch them using a tactic, bring it up. Discussing the tactic makes it less effective and makes them worry about alienating you completely. Example: good guy/bad guy routine.
  • Utilize all of the principles in this book to keep the hard bargainer on track.
  • Tricky tactics fall into 3 categories:
    • deliberate deception (page 132-133)
      • Phony facts
      • Ambiguous authority
      • Dubious intentions
      • Less than full disclosure is not the same as deception
    • Psychological warfare
      • Stressful situations
      • Personal attacks
      • Good guy/bad guy routine
      • Threats – good negotiators rarely resort to threats. Warnings are much more legitimate than threats and not vulnerable to counter threats
    • Positional pressure tactics – 139-142
      • Refusal to negotiate
      • Escalating demands- never yield to pressure, only to reason
      • Hardhearted partner – the other side is not the one that makes the decision. “it is reasonable to me, but my wife absolutely refuses…”  -Request to speak with the partner
      • A calculated delay
      • “take it or leave it”
    • Don’t be a victim
      • Ask yourself if you would be embarrassed if there was a full writeup in the newspaper on how you negotiated.

Conclusion- a lot of this book seems like common sense. But it is easy to fall back into the positional bargaining that most people think of when they hear the word negotiate (haggling). This can be used as a guide for how to get through the tough negotiations while maintaining a solid relationship. I hope this was a helpful summary. I will be reading “getting past no” next!






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s