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Book: Getting To Yes

Author:  Roger Fisher and William Ury

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Fisher, R., Ury, W. & Patton, B. (1991). Getting to yes : negotiating agreement without giving in. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. In a principled agreement, the agreement must reflect some fair standard independent of the sheer will of the other side. This means that some fair standard such as market value, expert opinion, custom, or law determine the outcome. (pg. 12)

  2. Commit yourself to reaching a solution based on principle, not pressure.  Concentrate on the merits of the problem, not the will of the parties.  The more you bring standards of fairness, the more likely you are to have an agreement that is wise and fair. (pg. 82)

  3. The BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) is the standard against which any proposed agreement should be measured. Whether or not you should agree on something in a negotiation depends entirely upon the attractiveness to you of the best available alternative. (pg. 100)


Other Key Ideas:

Principled Negotiation is meant to decide issues on their merits rather than through a haggling process focused on what each side says it will and will not do.  It suggests that you look for mutual gains and the result should be based on some fair standards independent of the will of either side. (pg. xviii)

When negotiators bargain over positions, they tend to lock themselves into positions.  The more you defend your position, the more committed you become. Your ego becomes identified with your position. (Pg. 5)

Bargaining over positions creates incentives that stall settlement - you try to improve the chance that settlement is reached favorably on your end by starting with an extreme position and stubbornly holding to it.  The more extreme the opening positions and the smaller the concessions, the more time and effort it will take to discover whether or not an agreement is possible. (pg. 6)

The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess. (pg. 23)

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.  Agreement becomes much easier if both parties feel ownership of the ideas. (pg. 28)

Many consider it a good tactic not to give the other side’s case too much attention. A good negotiator does just the reverse. Unless you acknowledge what they are saying and demonstrate that you understand them, they may believe you have not heard them. (pg. 34)

Build a working relationship - knowing the other side personally really does help. (pg. 37)

If you want someone to listen and understand your reasoning, give your interests and reasoning first and your conclusions or proposals later. (pg. 52)

As valuable as it is to have many options, people involved in a negotiation rarely sense a need for them.  A creative options can often make the difference between deadlock and agreement. (pg. 57)

Few things facilitate a decision as much as precedent.  Look for a decision or statement that the other side may have made in a similar situation, and try to base a proposed agreement on it.  This provides an objective standard for your request. (pg. 79)​​

If the other side truly will not budge and will not advance a persuasive basis for their position, then there is no further negotiation.  You now have a choice like the one you face when you walk into a store which has a fixed, non-negotiable price on what you want to buy. You can take it or leave it.  (pg. 91)

If they think you lack a good alternative when if fact you have one, then you should almost certainly let them know. Also, the more you can learn about their alternatives, you can realistically estimate what you can expect from the negotiation. (pg. 105)​

Developing your BATNA is perhaps the most effective course of action you can take in dealing with a seemingly more powerful negotiator.  (pg. 106)

A good negotiator rarely makes an important decision on the spot.  The psychological pressure to be nice and to give in is too great. A little time and distance help separate the people from the problem.  (pg. 124)

You can usually get the other side to play the game of principled negotiation with you, even if at first they appear unwilling. (pg. 128)

Contrary to accepted wisdom, it is sometimes advantageous to accept an offer to meet on the other side’s turf. It may put them at ease, making them more open to your suggestions.  It necessary, it will be easier for you to walk out. (pg. 135)

Negotiators will frequently start with extreme proposals.  The goal is to lower your expectations Noticing the tactic and bringing it to their attention works well here.  Ask for principled justification of their position until it looks ridiculous even to them. (pg. 139)

Making an unjustified concession now is unlikely to make easier to deal with future differences.  You may think that next time it is their turn to make a concession; they are likely to believe that if they are stubborn enough, you will give in again. (pg. 157)

Good communication is an especially important source of negotiating power.  Crafting your message with punch, listening to the other side, and showing that you have heard can all increase your persuasiveness.   (pg. 180)

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