Getting to Yes



Recently we had a lunch and learn at Zirous where we discussed working with people and companies.  Our company leader Mike McDermott mentioned a good book to read on any type of negotiation is Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.  As luck would have it a co-worker had the book on his desk and he let me borrow it.

Most of us think of negotiating as we do on the price of some good where we start with the price.  This is one of the first things discussed in Getting to Yes, this is called positional bargaining.  The authors site three reasons why positional bargaining is a poor choice.

  1. Arguing over positions produces unwise agreements
  2. Arguing over positions is inefficient
  3. Arguing over positions endangers an ongoing relationship.

The move to state how with many parties this can be even more difficult to use positional bargaining.  This leads us all to ask, “if not that way then how?” to which the authors correctly point us to their method.  The work in this book is based on the Harvard Negotiation Project.  This is an academic study of negotiation.  Especially in positional bargaining there can be perceptions of one side is winning and one side is losing.  The authors are trying to lead us to agreements that both side can walk away and be happy with.  This very important in business or life where you may work with these people again and again.   This is similar to what Steven Covey would call a “Win-Win” agreement.

“Separate the people from the problem”  is the first part of the method they discuss.  It seems simple enough but many times we find we mix the two.  When we negotiate we work with people and we have a relationship with the people and interests in seeing an agreement made.

“Focus on Interests, Not Positions” helps us see why we need to break these two apart.  What brings the other side to the negotiation?  Maybe they are buying their first house or perhaps it is a new job offer.

“Invent Options for Mutual Gain” asks us to brainstorm ideas and options that will be beneficial to both sides.  This can require a lot of searching and a good understanding of all parties interests.  Are there any areas of overlap in the stakeholders interests?

“Insist on using Objective Criteria” to measure the agreement.  Without this the basis for the decision could be to costly to one side.  We are urged to develop fair standards and procedures for our negotiations.

Overall these suggestions should be helpful for you in any negotiation you have in life.  They have another good idea in this book that we can discuss tomorrow.


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