Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In


Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
Robert Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton

getting-to-yes-negotiating-agreement-without-giving-inThe premise of Getting to Yes is relatively simple; in essence the traditional view of negotiation (as a game of “give and take” between parties) is largely unproductive and can shatter working relationships between parties. Under this traditional view, parties are forced to choose between hardline negotiations (where you attempt to force your desired outcome) and softline negotiation (where you make extreme concessions in order to preserve the relationship). The authors offer a new outlook (referred to as “principled negotiation”) where all parties work to make objective and rational statements about their desired outcomes (including providing empirical reasoning for their desired outcome). This new approach (summarized in the Appendix) removes the oppositional/adversarial outlook of negotiation and works to find creative solutions which satisfy the needs of all parties involved.

The model proposed is easy to use. The first step involves detaching personal politics from negotiation. Through making the negotiation about the issue at hand, the authors claim that relationships are more likely to be preserved regardless of the outcome of the negotiation. A major element of removing personal politics from the negotiation is to focus on personal interest rather than a hard position. Expressing personal interest in more lucid terms rather than abbreviated and absolute terms (e.g. “I would like to be able to sell the house and have a capital gain that would allow me to put 20% on house X” rather than “I would like to get $160,000 for the house”) allows both parties to understand the interest at play and to work to explore mutually beneficial outcomes. In addition to expressing personal interests, the authors also insist that the terms of the negotiation be expressed in objective terms (i.e. when negotiating the house price an offer would be based off of the same quantitative/qualitative comparisons used in an appraisal). Instead of throwing out arbitrary figures in order to whittle a party up or down, each party must justify their request with some particular objective fact.

As the authors conclude the book, they provide a set of “Frequently Asked Questions” that they’ve received since publishing the first edition of the text. Each of the questions delve into more specific detail regarding how to employ the techniques in situations where power imbalances may be at place or one party simply refuses to negotiate.

Overall, the authors use the bulk of the text to compare and contrast traditional negotiation styles with their proposed “principled” negotiation technique.  I've included the books main headings to provide you with more of a flavor for the book.

  1. The problem
    1. Don't bargain over positions
  2. The method
    1. Separate the people from the problem
    2. Focus on interests, not positions
    3. Invent options for mutual gain
    4. Insist on using objective criteria
  3. Yes, but...
    1. What if they are more powerful?
    2. What if they won't play?
    3. What if they use dirty tricks?
  4. In conclusion
  5. Ten questions people ask