Getting To Yes: Negotiation Agreement Without Giving In

We all experience the world from different perspectives, so at some point in our lives we will likely encounter at least some measure of disagreement and conflict with others. One useful guide to help us manage these situations is the book “Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.” In it Roger Fisher and William Ury outline the method of Principled Negotiation which helps us look for opportunities of mutual gain and agreement that are founded on fair standards. This is a method that can work (and has worked) at every level of society. So, rather than seeing conflict as the end of our interpersonal interactions, it can instead be seen as the beginning of a process through which we can arrive at acceptable, reasonable, and respectful agreements because even within disagreement there is much upon which we can agree.

Below is an outline of this method, but if you would like to explore the topic in greater depth we highly recommend buying the book. Another helpful resource is a course called the "Art of Conflict Management: Achieving Solutions for Life, Work, and Beyond" from The Teaching Company. You can buy it online or you can check it out from our local libraries. You can also watch lecture 10 on Principled Negotiation here.

1. Don’t bargain over positions because doing so:

• produces unwise agreements,
• is inefficient, and
• it endangers an ongoing relationship

2. Separate the people from the problem

• Negotiators are people first
• Every negotiator has two kinds of interests: in the substance and in the relationship

3. Separate the relationship from the substance; deal directly with the people problem


i. Put yourself in their shoes
ii. Don't deduce their intentions from your fears
iii. Don't blame them for your problem
iv. Discuss each other's perceptions
v. Look for opportunities to act inconsistently with their perceptions
vi. Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process
vii. Face-saving: Make your proposals consistent with their values


i. First recognize and understand emotions, theirs and yours
ii. Make emotions explicit and acknowledge them as legitimate
iii. Allow the other side to let off steam
iv. Don’t react to emotional outbursts
v. Use symbolic gestures


i. Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said
ii. Speak to be understood
iii. Speak about yourself, not about them
iv. Speak for a purpose

Prevention works best

i. Build a working relationship
ii. Face the problem, not the people

4. Focus on interests, not on positions

For a wise solution reconcile interests, not positions

i. Interests define the problem
ii. Behind opposed positions lie shared and compatible interests, as well as conflicting ones

• How do you identify interests?

i. Ask "Why?"
ii. Ask "Why not?" Think about their choice
iii. Realize that each side has multiple interests
iv. The most powerful interests are basic human needs
v. Make a list

Talking about interests

i. Make your interests come alive
ii. Acknowledge their interests as part of the problem
iii. Put the problem before your answer
iv. Look forward, not back
v. Be concrete but flexible
vi. Be hard on the problem, soft on the people

5. Invent options for mutual gain


i. Premature judgment
ii. Searching for the single answer
iii. The assumption of a fixed pie
iv. Thinking that "solving their problem is their problem"


i. Separate inventing from deciding
ii. Before brainstorming
iii. During brainstorming
iv. After brainstorming
v. Consider brainstorming with the other side

Broaden your options

i. Multiply options by shuttling between the specific and the general: The Circle Chart
ii. Look through the eyes of different experts
iii. Invent agreements of different strengths
iv. Change the scope of a proposed agreement

Look for mutual gain

i. Identify shared interests
ii. Dovetail differing interests
iii. Ask for their preferences

Make their decision easy

i. Whose shoes?
ii. What decision?
iii. Making threats is not enough

6. Insist on using objective criteria

Deciding on the basis of will is costly

The case for using objective criteria

i. Principled negotiation produces wise agreements amicably and efficiently

Developing objective criteria

i. Fair standards
ii. Fair procedures

Negotiating with objective criteria

i. Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria

1. Ask "What's your theory?"
2. Agree first on principles

ii. Reason and be open to reason
iii. Never yield to pressure

7. What if they are more powerful - Developing your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)

Protecting yourself

i. The costs of using a bottom line
ii. The insecurity of an unknown BATNA
iii. Formulate a trip wire

Making the most of your assets

i. The better your BATNA, the greater your power
ii. Develop your BATNA
iii. Consider the other side's BATNA

When the other side is powerful

8. What if they won’t play - Use negotiation jujitsu

Don't attack their position, look behind it
• Don't defend your ideas, invite criticism and advice
• Recast an attack on you as an attack on the problem
• Ask questions and pause
• Consider the use of a third-party mediator

9. What if they use dirty tricks - Taming the hard bargainer

How do you negotiate about the rules of the game?

i. Separate the people from the problem
ii. Focus on interests, not positions
iii. Invent options for mutual gain
iv. Insist on objective criteria

Deliberate deception

i. Phony facts
ii. Ambiguous authority
iii. Dubious intentions
iv. Less than full disclosure is not the same as deception

Psychological warfare

i. Stressful situations
ii. Personal attacks
iii. The good-guy/bad-guy routine
iv. Threats

Positional pressure tactics

i. Refusal to negotiate
ii. Extreme demands
iii. Escalating demands
iv. Lock-in tactics
v. Hardhearted partner
vi. A calculated delay
vii. “Take it or leave it"

Don’t be a victim