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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Getting to yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.


I finished this book in February 2023. I recommend this book 7/10.

Getting to yes takes the power battle out of negotiations and pushes the opposite sites for a win-win. I would not recommend this book if you are negotiating when buying your next car. However, if you are constantly negotiating with another division within your company—this book will teach you the Socraties way.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • P4. Any method of negotiation may be fairly judged by three criteria: It should produce a wise agreement if an agreement is possible. It should be efficient. And it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties. (A wise agreement can be defined as one that meets the legitimate interests of each side to the extent possible, resolves conflicting interest fairly, is durable, and take community interests into account.)

  • P11. At the Harvard Negotiation Project, we have been developing an alternative to positional bargaining: a method of negotiation explicitly designed to produce wise outcomes efficiently and amicably. This method called principled negotiation or negation on the merits, can be boiled down to four basic points. These four points define a straightforward method of negotiation that can be used in almost any circumstance. Each point deals with a basic element of negotiation and suggests what you should do about it:

    • People: Separate the people from the problem.

    • Interests: Focus on interest, not position.

    • Options: Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do.

    • Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard.

  • P25. The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is the most important skill a negotiator can possess. It is not enough to know that they see things differently. If you want to influence them, you also need to understand empathetically the power of their point of view and to feel the emotional force with which they believe in it. It is not enough to study them like beetles under a microscope; you need to know what it feels like to be a beetle.

  • P37. Standard techniques of good listening are to pay close attention to what is said, to ask the other party to spell out carefully and clearly exactly what they mean and to request that ideas be repeated if there is any ambiguity or uncertainty. Make it your task while listening not to phrase a response, but to understand them as they see themselves. Take in their perceptions, their needs, and their constraints.

  • P37. So show that you understand them. "Let me see whether I follow what you are telling me. From your point of view, the situation looks like this..." As you repeat what you understood them to have said, phrase it positively from their point of view, making the strength of their case clear. You might say, "You have a strong case. Let me see if I can explain it. Here's the way it strikes me..." Understanding is not agreeing. One can, at the same time, understand perfectly and disagree completely with what the other side is saying.

  • Ask, "Why?" One basic technique is to put yourself in their shoes. Examine each position they take, and ask yourself, "Why?" Why, for instance, does your landlord prefer to fix the rent—in a five-year lease—year by year? The answer you may come up with, to be protected against increasing costs, is probably one of his interests. You can also ask the landlord himself why he takes a particular position. If you do, make clear that you are asking not for justification of his position but for an understanding of the needs, hopes, fears, or desires that it serves. What's your basic concern, Mr. Peters, in wanting the lease to turn for no more than three years?"

  • P50. The most powerful interests are basic human needs. In searing for the basic interests behind a declared position, look particularly for those bedrock concerns that motivate all people. If you take care of such basic needs, you increase the chance of both reaching an agreement and, if an agreement is reached, of the other side's keeping to it. Basic human needs include:

    • Security.

    • Economic well-being.

    • A sense of belonging.

    • Recognition.

    • Control over one's life.

  • P52. If you want the other side to take your interests into account, explain to them what those interests are. A member of a concerned citizens' group complaining about a construction project in the neighborhood should talk explicitly about such issues as ensuring children's safety and getting a good night's sleep. An author who wants to be able to give a great many of his books away should discuss the matter with his publisher. The publisher has a shared interest in the promotion and may be willing to offer the author a low price. One guideline—be specific. Concrete details not only make your description credible, they add impact. For example: "Three times in the last week, a child was almost run over by one of your trucks. About eight-thirty Tuesday morning, that huge red gravel truck of yours, going north at almost forty miles per hour, had to swerve and barely missed hitting seven-year-old Loretta Johnson."

  • P53. Acknowledge their interests as part of the problem. Each of us tends to be so concerned with his or her own interests that we pay too little heed to the interests of others. People listen better if they feel that you have understood them.

  • P55. Having thought about your interests, you should go into a meeting not only with one or more specific options that would meet your legitimate interests but also with an open mind. An open mind is not an empty one. Be hard on the problem and soft on the people. You can be just as hard in talking about your interests as any negotiator can be in talking about their position. In fact, it is usually advisable to be hard. It may not be wise to commit yourself to your position, but it is wise to commit yourself to your interests. This is the place in a negotiation to spend your aggressive energies. The other side being concerned with expectations of the range of possible agreements. Often the wisest solutions, those that produce the maximum gain for you at the minimum cost to the other side, are produced only by strongly advocating your interests. Two negotiators, each pushing hard for their interests, will often stimulate each other's creativity in thinking up mutually advantageous solutions.

  • P58. Yet all too often negotiators end up like the proverbial children who quarreled over an orange. After they finally agreed to divide the orange in half, the first child took one half of the fruit and threw away the peel, while the other threw away the fruit and used the peel from the second half to bake a cake. All too often, negotiators "leave money on the table."

  • P62. To invent creative options, then, you will need to (1) separate the act of inventing options from the act of judging them, (2) broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer; (3) search for mutual gains; and (4) invent ways of making their decisions easy.

  • P63. Before brainstorming:

    • Define your purpose.

    • Choose a few participants.

    • Change the environment.

    • Design an informal atmosphere.

    • Choose a facilitator.

  • P88. Having identified some objective criteria and procedures, how do you go about discussing them with the other side? There are three basic points to remember:

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

    • Reason and be open to reason as to which standards are most appropriate and how they should be applied.

    • Never yield to pressure, only to principle.

  • P102. The reason you negotiate is to produce something better than the results you can obtain without negotiating. What are the results? What is that alternative? What is your BATNA—your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement? That is the standard against which any proposed agreement should be measured. That is the only standard that can protect you both from accepting terms that are too unfavorable and from rejecting terms it would be in your best interest to accept.

  • P104. The better your BATNA, the great your power. People think of negotiating power as being determined by resources like wealth, political connections, physical strength, friends, and military might. In fact, the relative negotiating power of two parties depends primarily upon how attractive to each is the option of not reaching an agreement. Think for a moment about how you would feel walking into a job interview with no other offers—only some uncertain leads. Think how the talk about salary would go. Now contrast that with how you would feel walking in with two other job offers. How would that salary negotiation proceed? The difference is power.

  • P105. Develop your BATNA. Vigorous exploration of what you will do if you do not reach an agreement can greatly strengthen your hand. Attractive alternatives are not just sitting there waiting for you; you usually have to develop them. Generating possible BATNAs requires three distinct operations (1) inventing a list of actions you might conceivably take if no agreement is reached; (2) improving some of the more promising ideas and converting them into practical alternatives; and (3) selecting tentatively, the one alternative that seems best.

  • P110. If pushing back does not work, what does? How can you prevent the cycle of action and reaction? Do not push back. When they assert their positions, do not reject them. When they attack your ideas, don't defend them. When they attack you, don't counterattack. Break the vicious cycle by refusing to react. Instead of pushing back, sidestep their attack and deflect it against the problem. As in the oriental martial arts of judo and jujitsu, avoid pitting your strength against theirs directly; instead, use your skill to step aside and turn their strength to your end. Rather than resisting their force, channel it into exploring interests, inventing options for mutual gain, and searching for independent standards. How does "negotiation jujitsu" work in practice? How do you sidestep their attack and deflect it against the problem? Typically their "attack" will consist of three maneuvers: asserting their position forcefully, attacking your ideas, and attacking you. Let's consider how a principled negotiator can deal with each of these. Don't attack their position; look behind it. When the other side sets forth their position, neither reject it nor accept it. Treat it as one possible option. Look for the interests behind it, seek out the principles that it reflects, and think about ways to improve it.

  • P113. Ask questions and pause. Those engaged in negotiation jujitsu use to key tools. The first is to use questions instead of statements. Statements generate resistance, whereas questions generate answers. Questions allow the other side to get their points across and let you understand them. They pose challenges and can be used to lead the other side to confront the problem. Questions offer them no target to strike at, no position to attack. Questions do not criticize; they educate. "Do you think it would be better to have teachers cooperating in a process they felt they were participating in or actively resisting one they felt was imposed on them and failed to take their concerns into account?" Silence is one of your best weapons. Use it. If they have made an unreasonable proposal or an attack you regard as unjustified, the best thing to do may be to sit there and not say a word. If you asked an honest question to which they have provided an insufficient answer, just wait. People tend to feel uncomfortable with silence, particularly if they have doubts about the merits of something they have said.


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