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Review: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving InGetting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a very useful and detailed guide to negotiating for mutual gain. It’s a mix of theory, application, and examples. The advice is realistic; it says to be optimistic but aware of your limits. As a freelance web designer (OptimWise), I negotiate in sales and client relations. I’ve seen this book mentioned in magazines like Inc. and Entrepreneur, and a few business and sales books. I finally decided to read it when it was recommended on This Week in Web Design.

Main ideas

  • Understand empathetically their point of view.
  • Explain your interests and reasoning before presenting your proposal. Otherwise, they may not listen to your reasoning.
  • Never yield to pressure; only to principle.
  • Expand the pie, don’t simply divide it. Aim for mutual gain.
  • Negotiate to strengthen the relationship, not strain it.

Separate the People from the Problem

  • Don’t blame.
  • Involve them in the decision-making process.
  • Talk about both sides’ emotions.
  • An apology defuses emotions, even if you don’t take personal responsibility for the situation.
  • Describe how the problem affects you, rather than accusing them.
  • Sit and act side-by-side, not face-to-face.

Focus on Interests, Not Positions

  • Show that you understand their interests.
  • Don’t argue about the past; decide on the future.

Invent Options for Mutual Gain

  • Shrink the scope of a proposal to reduce perceived risk; offer a trial phase.
  • Offers are usually more effective than threats.

Insist on Using Objective Criteria

  • Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria. Ask “What’s your theory?” or “how did you arrive at that proposal?”
  • Agree on standards before negotiating.
  • Go to a third party if necessary.

Develop Your BATNA

  • Your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) helps determine the minimally acceptable agreement, and will likely raise that minimum.

Negotiation Ninjitsu

  • Invite criticism about your proposal; ask what they’d do in your situation.
  • Use questions, not statements.
  • Be silent after they give an unsatisfactory answer; they’ll feel compelled to re-answer.
  • Say, “please correct me if I’m wrong” to appear open to correction.
  • Express gratitude for what they’ve done so far. Say, “I appreciate what you’ve done.”
  • It’s not a question of trust, it’s a question of principle.
  • Give a credible reason for taking a break from negotiating, such as talking it over with another.

Taming the Hard Bargainer

  • When someone uses their “hardhearted partner” as an excuse, first get their commitment in writing, then ask to speak to the partner.

Ten Questions People Ask

  • Negotiating doesn’t require compromising your principles. Find a solution consistent with both sides’ principles.
  • Propose your opening figure as a suggestion based on objective standards, not a firm position.
  • The more you try for, the more you’re likely to get.


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