Getting to Yes

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We spend our lives negotiating. This well researched and best selling classic offers advice to anyone who wants to do it better. This is the one book that we insist everyone who takes our conflict resolution or negotiation skills trainings read.This book is based on research from the Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard Law School.

Getting to Yes gives you the nuts and bolts of mutual gains negotiation in a small concise paperback which is a fast read. Most of our participants read in the course of a 2-3 training. I have read the book several times and keep finding new insights.have found something I had previously overlooked in each re-reading.

Getting to Yes points out that in virtually all circumstances people come to agreement in ways that short change everyone and leave too much on the table. This book shows you practical ways to find out what the other side wants and invent better alternatives that create improved results for everyone.

Separate the People from the Problem. Essentially this means to be hard on the problems under discussion but easy on the people. Many people hold the belief that in order to negotiate effectively they have to be unpleasant. Getting to Yes disproves this theory and goes on to show you how to wrong but it also shows you how to do things differently and improve your results.

Key Concepts

Focus on Interests not Positions. Getting to Yes shows you why positional bargaining is pointless. Interests are the "why you/they want it" behind the "what you want" statement of a position. Good agreements satisfy both sides' interests rather than positions. For example, when you ask for a specific dollar figure that amount is your best estimation of the dollar amount it will take to meet one or more of your interests. The figure you ask for is a position, your interests might include financial security, getting a good deal, or being thought of as a shrewd negotiator.

Invent Options for Mutual Gain. This is the true eureka experience of the book. Mutual gain is created by exploiting differences to create mutual gain rather than trying to get the biggest slice of a small pie. The key is to "look for items that are of low cost to you and high benefit to the other side or vice versa" and make trades accordingly.

Use Objective Criteria. The authors acknowledge that even with the best of intentions there are times when interests will be in direct opposition. The answer is not to go back to butting heads, but to find reasonable, outside, impartial criteria to apply to determine the resolution.

Focus on BATNA. Put another way, it is your No Agreement Alternative. What you will do if you are unable to reach an agreement through negotiation. BATNA is different from what is called your bottom line. A bottom line represents the worst outcome that you as a negotiator might accept.

In contrast determining your BATNA is a rational and thoughtful process. You can use it as a yardstick to measure any and all proposals against. Using a BATNA rather than a bottom line adds another level of thoughtfulness and rationality to the negotiation process. For more see All Things BATNA.

After reading this book you will realize that avoiding the pitfall of a win/lose mentality depends largely on careful preparation. Getting to Yes gives you an outline of what preparation you need to do to negotiate on the merits (rather than on each other) in order to reach a wise, mutually beneficial and durable agreement.


Some excerpts of other reviews that might be helpful:

"This is by far the best thing I've ever read about negotiation. It is equally relevant for the individual who would like to keep his friends, property and income and the statesman who would like to keep the peace." John Kenneth Galbraith, U.S.A.

"I read this book in an MBA course for Dispute Mediation. Although it was not a required reading, every text and article mentioned this book. You can easily read it in a weekend. Do not expect theory, paradigm, or lofty descriptions-this is cut to the chase stuff that lets you know many techniques for negotiating and helping the other side make a decision that is right for all involved.

Some helpful key concepts include elimintating emotions from the process, or dealing with the emotional techniques that the other side may use against you. It also describes BATNA, or the best alternatives to a negotiated agreement-those agreements which may be the most realistic and beneficial terms for both sides." Houston, Texas

"Rarely does one find a book that has so much applicability and also speaks with so much clarity. It's a "How to" book about negotiating, a skill that virtually everyone in life employs on a daily basis. You learn simple concepts that you can apply while getting some good anecdotal backbone that makes it very read-able. Those interested/working in politics and/or law will find it "up their alley" - but everyone would benefit from a read." Washington D.C.

"Actually I didn't read through the whole book. Yet I did capture the key point of the book - 'Don't bargain over positions'. Then I used this principle-based negotiation in real life. For instance, when I am facing a challenge from my partner on my proposal, I won't fight back directly. I will first seek for the mutual interest, a common ground. Then I'll explain why I think my proposal can help achieve the mutual interest.

Then I ask the opposing partner what he/she think and whether he/she wants to share any better proposal to achieve this mutual interest. If my/mutual interest can be satisfied, yet my partner has a better way to do it, then why not change my own proposal? I tried this approach several times and they all worked out pretty well. Most of the times I successfully convinced my partner without damaging the relationship. A few times I changed my position yet I was still happy because I still had my interest satisfied." Taipei, Taiwan

"I read this book as assigned reading for an International Relations course, and readily saw its relevance there. But I have also been able to apply the book's principles to everyday life -- with my coworkers, my wife, even my kids -- without damaging my relationships and still managing to keep everyone content. The central ideas about not digging in on positions and finding common ground, are key to this success. The book helped me open my eyes to realize that sometimes common ground is easier to find than I'd first thought, but it might not be what I'd first thought. I highly recommend this book!" Springfield, Virginia.

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