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Book Review - Getting to Yes: Negotiation agreement without giving in

Getting to Yes: Negotiation agreement without giving in by Roger Fisher and William Ury page 200+xiii, price 11.00 $ , publisher Penguin book publisher [1]

Either to earn or to learn if anyone is interested in negotiation a small but coherent book getting to yes should be a start-up book to read. As Newsweek perfectly stated it is a lucid brief for win-win negotiation which if it takes hold, may help convert the age of ‘Me to the Era of We’. [2] You can’t spell negotiation without this book.

Like it or not, we are a negotiator. Every day we negotiate knowingly or unknowingly. Negotiation is a basic means of getting what you want from others. Although negotiation takes place every day, it is not easy to do well.  This book is all about how to get yes without going in to war and giving in.

Getting to yes is not a sermon on the morality of right and wrong; it is a book on how to do well in a negotiation. In our daily life there are different types of people those shy, outgoing, verbal and logic-chopping, structured, less comprehensive, tactful, blunt and others. These all are what we witness and one may wonder how to negotiate with different people in principle but flexible manner. This book is all about creating a principled negotiation which brings victory for both sides.

There are three ways of negotiation and three types of negotiators. Soft negotiators who think that the other side is friend, the goal is agreement, soft on the people and the problem, trust other, disclose their bottom line and insist on agreement. On the other hand there are  hard negotiators who believes that the other side is adversarial, goal is victory, hard on both the people and problem, distrust others, make treat, mislead as to you bottom line. The third ways is a novel concept called principled negotiation.

To reach a fair, pragmatic and operational outcome we have to use four basic points: focus on interest, not position, separate the people from the problem, invent options for mutual gain and finally insist on using objective criteria.

Focus on interest, not position

The first governing principle is that don’t bargain over positions. Argument over position failed to meet the three criteria any method of negotiation should suppose to have. Therefore, it should produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible, it should be efficient and it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties.

Interest motivates people; they are the silent movers behind the hubbub of positions. You position is something you have decided upon. Your interests are what cause you to so decide. Behind opposed position lie shared and compatible interest, as well as conflict ones. In many negotiations a close examination of the underlying interest will reveal the existence of many more interest that are shared or compatible and simply different but not opposite one’s. Agreement is often made possible precisely because interest differ.

In searching for the basic interest behind a declared position, look particularly for that bedrock concern which motivate all people, which is basic human need. If you can take care of such basic need you increase the chance both of reaching agreement and enforceability.

Separate the people from the problem

A basic fact about negotiation is that you are dealing not with abstract representative of the other side but with human being. They have emotion, deeply held values and different background and view point and they are unpredictable, so are you.  Every negotiation wants to reach agreement that satisfies his substantive interests. That is why one negotiators. Beyond that, a negotiator also has an interest in his relationship with the other side.

If negotiator view themselves as adversaries in a personal face-to-face confrontation, it is difficult to separate their relationship from the substantive problem. Each side tends to become defensive and reactive and to ignore the other side’s legitimate interest altogether. It become better able to reach an amicable reconciliation of our various interests when we accept that tasks as a shared problem and face it jointly

Invent option for mutual gain negotiation process

 In most people’s mind, inventing simply is not part of the skill at inventing option is one of the most useful asset a negotiator can have expands the pie before dividing it. By definition inventing new ideas requires you to think about things that are not already in your mind. As valuable as it is to have many options, people involved in a negotiation rarely sense a need for them.  In a dispute, people usually believe that they know the right answer their view should prevail.  

People see their job as narrowing the gap between positions, not boarding the option available. Since they think that the end product of negotiation is a single decision, they fear that free-floating discussion will only delay and confuse the process. Generate many options before selecting among them. Invent first; decide later. Look for shared interest and differing interest to dovetail and seek to make their decision easy.

 In most negotiation there are four major objective obstacles that inhibit the inventing of an abundance of options i.e. premature judgment, searching for the single answer, the assumption of a fixed pie and thinking that solving their problem is their problem.

If you do this by the very least, even if you and the other side cannot reach first-order agreement, you can reach the second-order agreement that is; agree on where you disagree, so that you both know the issues in dispute, which are not always obvious.

Insist on using objective criteria

The approach depicts that to entrust yourself to reaching a solution based on principle, not pressure. Concentrate on the merit of the problem, not mettle of the parties. Be open to reason, but close to threat. It suggested that you look for mutual gains whenever possible and that where your interest conflict, you should insist that the result be based on some fair standard independent of the will of either side. It is hard on the problem (the issue) and soft on the people.

If a lease contain standard terms or if a sale contract conforms to practice in the industry, there is less risk that either negotiator will feel that he was harshly treated or will later try to repudiate the agreement. Ideally, to assure a wise agreement, objective criteria should be not only independence of will but also both legitimate and practical.

There are few instances whereby the other side becomes more power full in all sense. If the other side is more powerful in terms of every side, the most any method of negotiation can do is to meet two objectives; first, to protect you against making an agreement you should reject and second,  to help you reach will satisfy your interest as well as possible by establishing the bottom-line and BATNA. Developing your BATNA or walk-away alternative is perhaps the most effective course of action you can take in dealing with a seemingly more powerful negotiation.   

[1] I am very much indebted to Mr. Haregeweine Ashenafi, director of former Ethiopia Arbitration and Conciliation Center(EACC), for here generous bequest of the book under review.

[2] For purpose of its readability I refrain from citing the exact page which is the standard format in any book review

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Friday, 14 June 2024