27. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Fisher & Ury)

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Getting to Yes has been the focus of education at the office for the past couple of months.  It provides tips and guidance to negotiate successfully while building relationships and determining solutions that facilitate acceptance on both sides.  Although the book has been updated, the examples and some suggestions are reminiscent of past times.

It was difficult to get through the first half of the book.  Having experience negotiating and working in difficult, emotional situations, many of the skills seem to be common sense and the text was quite dry.  This section discussed the importance of not arguing over positions so that other solutions can be not only considered but invented.  A skill that many individuals need to keep in mind is to separate the person from the issue.  This is helpful advice as it is common for individuals to take issues personally, becoming defensive, instead of trying to solve a problem with an open mind.  Communication is key – listening and really considering the other person’s point of view is always helpful rather than thinking about what you will say next to defend your point of view.

The second half of the book kept my attention and provided some helpful advise including developing your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).  Doing your homework, preparing for the negation and knowing what your best alternative is should the negotiations fail is essential.  Skills required to refocus the attention on the issue including asking questions in a non-threatening manner, asking for advice as a way to understand other viewpoints, utilizing independent standards and maintaining a trusting, positive relationship are described.  There is also a section that deals with dirty tricks – such as ambiguous authority (think car dealerships when the sales person has to take back the offer to the sales manager), phony facts and  good cop/bad cop.  Along with a description of each of these tactics is guidance on how to deal with this underhanded negotiation style.

In the end, developing relationships and positive communication are essential for successful negotiation that leaves everyone feeling fairly treated.  Getting to Yes is a good overview of negotiation techniques but a unfortunately is a dry read with dated examples.  This book would be helpful for a beginning practitioner or as a review when dealing with difficult situations.

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