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Getting to Yes

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Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In – by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton of the Harvard Negotiation Project.

You gotta be a phony in order to negotiate successfully. Disclose what you really want and bargain hard. It’s a zero sum game after all, everything the other side wins is something you lose.

Frankly, these were some of my associations with negotiating. And many negotiations I witnessed and participated in left a bad taste in my mouth.

So I read this book, to get an edge over “the other side”. I thought I would learn some tactics on the fast road to winning. But it proved me completely wrong and it even made sense. And I think my ability to negotiate has gotten better, but without any bad taste after it.

The book gives a lot of real-world examples where negotiation went wrong. Most are not only real-world but really “real” and kind of famous. E.g., there are even some cases about negotiations with terrorists. And it gives a bunch of good practical advice on how to restructure any negotiation so the odds are that both parties will achieve a satisfactory result. And it’s not about bargaining hard. You don’t have to be a phony. You learn how to be “soft on people and hard on principles.”

Expect your attitude towards negotiations to be shaken.

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  • Pogo

    The book does indeed have some useful points. However, it ignores or discounts some common human behaviors (while pretending not to) and that makes this book less than useful.

    When I first read this book, I was quite taken by its approach, and applied its methods liberally. I read the related and follow-up volumes as well. Over time I discovered that Mr. Ury did not seem to have a good grasp on how humans actually operate, but based his view on how most of us should negotiate. That is, I got burned on several occasions when applying these principles.

    A number of writings spanning centuries discuss a more realistic view of human behaviors. Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, The 48 Laws of Power, Managing With Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations and others easily admit that a basic motive for many people is seeking and using power. “Win win” negotiations are of no use for them (except as a means to winning). Moreover, it fails to recognize the power differentials operating in most people’s lives.

    In short, this book provides a useful tool for a limited type of negotiation, but does not help you recognize when that might be. Its only advice for dealing with the dark side of human behavior is walking away from the table, really (aka the “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement” or “BATNA”).