Getting To Yes

Below is a summary of the book Getting to Yes.

The book talks about principled negotiation. Which is looking for mutual gains and where interests conflict using some fair standard to solve the issue.

This contrasts with positional bargaining where people bargaining over positions (I offer $10, they want $20, I offer $12 etc), which can create incentives to stall and endangers the relationship.

Four main steps in using principled negotiation:

  • People: separate the people from the problem.
    • Put yourself in their shoes.
    • One strategy is to listen quietly while they let off steam.
    • Communicating loudly and clearly things the over side wants to hear can be one of the best investment to make in a negotiation.
    • Agreement easier if both sides feel ownership of the ideas.
    • If you want the other side to accept a disagreeable conclusion then involve them from the start => so they feel ownership of the idea.
    • Avoid misunderstanding => interrupt with “Did I understand you correctly that you are saying … “.
    • Note that understanding is not agreeing.
    • Speak about yourself not them => “I feel let down… “.
    • Ben Franklin => asked to borrow a book off an adversary to make them more comfortable.
    • Try to structure negotiation as a side by side exercise.
  • Interests: focus on interests, not positions.
    • Look at underlying positions.
    • Identify interests => ask why, and ask why not.
    • Each negotiator has a constituency to whose interests he is sensitive too.
    • Be hard on the problem, soft on the people.
    • Convert interests into concrete options => if they agrees tomorrow what do I now think I would like them to go along with.
    • Combination of support and attack works best, alone they are likely to be insufficient.
  • Options: generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.
    • A good negotiator is a creative at inventing options.
    • People see their job as narrowing the gap between the positions not broadening the options available.
    • Obstacles stopping people from inventing options: premature judgement, searching for the single answer, assumption of a fixed price, think that ‘solving’ the problem is their problem.
    • To create more options: separate the act of inventing options from judging them, broaden options available rather than look for a single answer, search for mutual gains and invent ways of making their decision easy.
    • Key to wise decision making is selecting from a great number and variety of options.
    • Invent agreements of different strengths => in case you need a weaker version, or can put forward a stronger version depending on the situation.
    • Look for mutual gains, both sides can always be worse off then they are now.
    • Always look for solutions that leave the other side satisfied as well, if the customer feels cheated in a purchase then the store owner has also failed.
    • Making their decision easy => however complex the other side’s decision process is look at it from the view of the person you are dealing with => what would strengthen that person’s hand or help them persuade others to go along.
    • People are strongly influenced by notions of legitimacy, one way to develop solutions easy for the other side to accept is to shape them so they appear legitimate.
    • Making threats is not enough, offers / warnings tend to be more effective.
    • Final test of an option is to write it out as a “yesable” proposition – a draft proposal to which the other side can respond with a single word “yes”.
  • Criteria: insist that result be based on some objective standard.
    • Interesting concept of “one cuts, one chooses” for dividing up an object or entity.
    • Introduction of an objective standard or model to use can lead to the situation where no-one has to back down or appear weak – just reasonable.
    • Negotiating with objective criteria: frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria, be open to which standards are most appropriate, never yield to pressure only principle.

But what if:

  • They are more powerful:
    • Protect yourself by setting a bottom line (with some margin of safety) before starting the negotiation.
    • Generate the best possible BANTA: invent a list of actions you could take if no agreement is reached, improve some of the more promising ideas and convert them into practical alternatives, select the best option.
  • They won’t play:
    • Three approaches to focusing their attention on the merits: concentrate on the merits hoping they will then follow your example, focus on what they can do (direct their attention to the merits, do not reject their position, just side step their attack and deflect it against the problem), use a third party to focus the discussion perhaps using the one-text tool.
    • One-text tool is an iterative process where each side can say yes or no part of the agreement one issue at a time, as the plan takes shape each side tends to raise only the issues that are most important.
    • This shifts the game away from positional bargaining as it simplifies the process of both inventing options and deciding jointly on one.

Here are some useful links to other blog posts that discuss the book:


One Response to Getting To Yes

  1. Hi, Bert. Thank you so much for the link.
    I enjoyed a lot your summary, too.

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