Getting to Yes

by Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: May 15, 2024
Getting to Yes
Getting to Yes

Discover the principles of effective negotiation in "Getting to Yes" book summary. Learn how to separate people from problems, focus on interests not positions, and build a strong BATNA. Unlock mutual gains and achieve better outcomes. Compact yet insightful guide for negotiation mastery.

What are the big ideas?

Embrace Principled Negotiation

Principled negotiation, distinct from 'soft' and 'hard' tactics, focuses on merits rather than positions, aiming for mutual gains and keeping personal relations intact. This method is described as 'hard on the merits, soft on the people.'

Separate People from Problems

A key tactic in negotiation is to treat the people involved with respect and empathy, while addressing the problem itself with objectivity. This approach helps in minimizing conflicts and focusing on finding solutions based on rational arguments.

Focus on Interests, Not Positions

In principled negotiation, the emphasis is on understanding and addressing the underlying interests behind stated positions, which often reveals mutual gains and alternative solutions that positional bargaining overlooks.

Generate Options for Mutual Gain

This strategy involves creating a wide range of possible solutions before deciding, promoting innovative and inclusive outcomes that accommodate the interests of all parties involved.

Use Objective Criteria

Agreements should be based on fair and independent standards rather than on power dynamics or arbitrary decisions, ensuring a just and effective negotiation process.

Build and Leverage BATNA

Developing a strong Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) enhances negotiating power and provides a benchmark for evaluating proposed agreements, ensuring one is not forced into unfavorable terms.

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Embrace Principled Negotiation

Embrace Principled Negotiation

Principled negotiation is a powerful approach that avoids the pitfalls of 'soft' and 'hard' tactics. Instead of bargaining over positions, it focuses on the underlying interests of both parties. The goal is to find mutually beneficial solutions that satisfy everyone's needs.

This method is "hard on the merits, soft on the people." It emphasizes objective criteria and fair standards, rather than simply pushing for your own demands. At the same time, it keeps personal relationships intact by separating the people from the problem.

Principled negotiation allows you to be assertive in pursuing your interests, while also being empathetic and collaborative. It's an all-purpose strategy that can be applied in any negotiation, from business deals to family disputes. If the other side learns this method, it actually becomes easier to use, not harder.

The key is to shift the discussion away from rigid positions and toward shared interests, creative options, and fair standards. This approach helps you reach wise, amicable agreements that satisfy everyone involved.

Here are examples from the context that support the key insight of embracing principled negotiation:

  • The method of principled negotiation is contrasted with "hard and soft positional bargaining" - it is described as "hard on the merits, soft on the people."

  • Principled negotiation focuses on "interests, not positions" - it aims to "satisfy their underlying interests" rather than just compromising between stated positions.

  • It suggests "looking for mutual gains whenever possible" and "insisting that the result be based on some fair standards independent of the will of either side."

  • Principled negotiation "employs no tricks and no posturing" and "enables you to be fair while protecting you against those who would take advantage of your fairness."

  • It is described as an "all-purpose strategy" that can be used in a wide variety of negotiations, from "a contract, a family quarrel, or a peace settlement among nations."

  • The method involves "separating the people from the problem" and having the participants "come to see themselves as working side by side, attacking the problem, not each other."

The key concepts illustrated here are:

  • Principled negotiation - a method focused on merits, mutual gains, and fair standards rather than just positions
  • Separating people from problem - disentangling emotions and perceptions from the substantive issues
  • Focusing on interests, not positions - understanding underlying needs rather than just stated bargaining stances

Separate People from Problems

Separate the people from the problem. This is a crucial principle in effective negotiation. Rather than attacking the people involved, focus on addressing the underlying issue objectively. Treat the other party with respect and empathy, even as you firmly advocate for your interests.

Avoid letting emotions and personal biases cloud the discussion. Disentangle the substantive problem from relationship issues. Negotiate the content and process separately, on their own merits. Build a constructive working relationship, independent of agreement or disagreement on the specific points.

When people problems do arise, negotiate them directly. Raise your concerns, explain your perspective, and seek fair standards to govern how you interact. But maintain composure - you need not match unproductive behavior. Adapt your own approach to better connect with the other party's communication style and mindset. The goal is to find a mutually beneficial solution, not to "win" at all costs.

Here are some examples from the context that support the key insight of separating people from problems in negotiation:

  • "If they feel personally threatened by an attack on the problem, they may grow defensive and may cease to listen. This is why it is important to separate the people from the problem. Attack the problem without blaming the people."

  • "Go even further and be personally supportive: Listen to them with respect, show them courtesy, express your appreciation for their time and effort, emphasize your concern with meeting their basic needs, and so on. Show them that you are attacking the problem, not them."

  • "A well-known theory of psychology, the theory of cognitive dissonance, holds that people dislike inconsistency and will act to eliminate it. By attacking a problem, such as speeding trucks on a neighborhood street, and at the same time giving the company representative positive support, you create cognitive dissonance for him. To overcome this dissonance, he will be tempted to dissociate himself from the problem in order to join you in doing something about it."

  • "Fighting hard on the substantive issues increases the pressure for an effective solution; giving support to the human beings on the other side tends to improve your relationship and to increase the likelihood of reaching agreement. It is the combination of support and attack which works; either alone is likely to be insufficient."

The key concept here is to separate the problem itself from the people involved, and to treat the people with empathy and respect even as you tackle the problem objectively. This helps overcome defensive reactions and builds a collaborative relationship focused on finding solutions.

Focus on Interests, Not Positions

The key to effective negotiation is to focus on interests, not positions. When negotiating, people often take rigid positions and stubbornly defend them. This leads to inefficient, suboptimal outcomes that fail to address the underlying needs and concerns of both parties.

Instead, you should strive to understand the interests driving the other side's position. What are their core needs, concerns, and motivations? By uncovering these underlying interests, you can often find creative solutions that satisfy everyone's key priorities. This allows you to move beyond the superficial positions and craft agreements that are truly beneficial for all.

Positional bargaining traps you in a cycle of attack and defense, where you waste time and energy fighting over arbitrary stances. In contrast, an interests-based approach encourages collaborative problem-solving. You work together to invent options for mutual gain, rather than simply compromising between fixed demands. This leads to wiser, more efficient agreements that strengthen, rather than damage, the relationship.

The key is to shift the discussion away from rigid positions and towards the fundamental interests at stake. By focusing on underlying needs and exploring creative solutions, you can unlock value that positional bargaining would have left on the table.

Here are examples from the context that support the key insight to focus on interests, not positions:

  • The context states that "A negotiating position often obscures what you really want. Compromising between positions is not likely to produce an agreement which will effectively take care of the human needs that led people to adopt those positions." This highlights the importance of focusing on underlying interests rather than just stated positions.

  • The context provides the example of negotiating over the depth of foundations for a home vs. an office building. It notes that the "stakes would be much higher if you were negotiating over the foundations for an office building than those for a tool shed." This shows how the underlying interests (e.g. importance of the outcome) should guide the negotiation approach, not just the stated positions.

  • The context discusses how in labor-management negotiations, "Each side sees the other as 'the enemy' and the situation as zero-sum, ignoring the enormous shared costs of strikes, lockouts, and bad feelings." This illustrates how focusing only on positions can obscure the shared interests the parties have in avoiding costly conflict.

  • The context states that "Before working on the substantive problem, the 'people problem' should be disentangled from it and dealt with separately. Figuratively if not literally, the participants should come to see themselves as working side by side, attacking the problem, not each other." This emphasizes the importance of separating the people from the problem and focusing on shared interests.

  • The context explains that "Compromising between positions is not likely to produce an agreement which will effectively take care of the human needs that led people to adopt those positions." This highlights how a focus on positions rather than underlying interests is unlikely to lead to optimal outcomes.

Generate Options for Mutual Gain

Generate Options for Mutual Gain

The key to successful negotiation is to generate a wide range of possible solutions before deciding on a final agreement. This promotes innovative and inclusive outcomes that accommodate the interests of all parties involved.

Rather than focusing solely on your own position or demands, you should explore a variety of options that could satisfy the needs and concerns of the other side as well. By expanding the pie instead of just dividing it, you create opportunities for a mutually beneficial agreement.

This requires creativity and open-mindedness. Avoid getting stuck on a single solution or position. Instead, brainstorm multiple alternatives that address the underlying interests and concerns of all negotiators. Evaluate these options objectively to identify the ones that offer the greatest mutual gains.

The goal is to find a solution that leaves both sides feeling like winners, not just one side triumphing over the other. By generating options for mutual gain, you increase the chances of reaching an agreement that meets the core needs of everyone at the table.

Here are some examples from the context that support the key insight of generating options for mutual gain:

  • The case of Israel and Egypt negotiating over the Sinai Peninsula illustrates the opportunity to "invent creative options like a demilitarized Sinai" that can "make the difference between deadlock and agreement."

  • The author gives the example of a lawyer who attributes his success directly to his "ability to invent solutions advantageous to both his client and the other side" - he "expands the pie before dividing it."

  • The context discusses how "skill at inventing options is one of the most useful assets a negotiator can have" to avoid "leaving money on the table" and reaching suboptimal agreements.

  • The context suggests "looking at a problem through the eyes of different experts" like an educator, banker, or psychiatrist to "invent additional action suggestions" and generate more options.

  • It also recommends "inventing agreements of different strengths" like provisional or procedural agreements if a permanent substantive agreement is not possible.

The key is to focus on expanding the range of possible solutions, rather than just dividing a fixed pie, in order to reach mutually beneficial outcomes. The context provides concrete examples of how skilled negotiators can employ this strategy.

Use Objective Criteria

Rely on objective criteria to guide negotiations. Avoid basing agreements on power dynamics, threats, or arbitrary decisions. Instead, focus on fair, independent standards that both sides can accept.

Objective criteria are measurable, impartial benchmarks that all parties can refer to. This could include industry norms, expert assessments, past precedents, or mutually agreed-upon principles. By grounding negotiations in objective criteria, you can reach a wise, mutually satisfactory agreement.

Insisting on objective criteria shifts the discussion away from positional bargaining and toward a collaborative search for a fair solution. This protects the relationship between negotiators and increases the chances of a durable agreement. Even if the parties have conflicting interests, they can work together to identify appropriate standards to resolve the issue.

When objective criteria are unavailable or disputed, consider involving a neutral third party to assess the fairness and applicability of proposed standards. This can help break deadlocks and demonstrate a commitment to a principled, reasonable outcome.

Ultimately, basing negotiations on objective criteria rather than power plays produces wiser, more efficient, and more amicable agreements. It's a principled approach that serves the interests of all involved.

Here are examples from the context that support the key insight of using objective criteria in negotiations:

  • The MIT model for the economics of deep-seabed mining provided an objective way to evaluate the impact of proposed fees, helping the Indian and U.S. representatives change their positions based on the model's findings rather than just digging in on their original demands.

  • When negotiating the depth of foundations for a house construction contract, the homeowner insisted on using objective safety standards and government specifications rather than just accepting the contractor's preferred depth.

  • In the Law of the Sea negotiations, the parties initially took opposing positions on an initial fee for mining companies, but were able to reach a tentative agreement once they found an objective model to evaluate the economic impact of different fee proposals.

  • The principle of "reciprocal application" was used to evaluate whether proposed objective criteria were truly fair and independent of either party's will - for example, asking if a real estate agency would use the same standard contract form when buying a house.

  • When the parties could not agree on the most appropriate objective criteria, the context suggests putting the proposed criteria to a test by having a mutually respected third party evaluate and decide which are fairest.

The key is to focus the negotiation on discussing and applying fair, independent standards rather than just asserting positions or engaging in a battle of wills. This helps produce wise, amicable agreements.

Build and Leverage BATNA

Develop a Strong BATNA to Enhance Your Negotiating Power

Your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is the best course of action you can take if the current negotiation fails. By identifying and improving your BATNA, you gain a powerful benchmark to evaluate any proposed agreement. This ensures you do not feel pressured into accepting unfavorable terms just to reach a deal.

The stronger your BATNA, the greater your negotiating power. If you have an attractive alternative, you can confidently present your interests and walk away if the other side's offer does not meet your needs. Conversely, if the other side believes you lack good alternatives, they may try to take advantage. Carefully consider both your own BATNA and the other side's to gain strategic advantage.

Investing time and effort into developing your BATNA is one of the most effective ways to boost your negotiating position. The more you can improve your alternatives, the more you can demand from the current negotiation. Leverage your BATNA to persuade the other side to meet your interests - or be willing to pursue your alternatives instead.

Here are some examples from the context that support the key insight of building and leveraging BATNA:

  • The wealthy tourist wanting to buy a brass pot from the vendor at the Bombay railroad station. The vendor's BATNA of being able to sell the pot to another customer gave him more negotiating power than the wealthy tourist, who had no alternative options.

  • The small town negotiating with the large corporation to raise taxes on their factory. The town knew its BATNA was to expand the town limits and tax the factory at the full residential rate, giving them more leverage than the corporation which had not developed an alternative to reaching an agreement.

  • The father trying to get his son to mow the lawn. When the son revealed his BATNA of taking money from the father's wallet, the father was able to worsen the son's BATNA by not leaving his wallet out, increasing his negotiating power.

  • The importance of developing a "micro-BATNA" for each meeting, such as having a good exit line prepared if the meeting is inconclusive, to enhance one's negotiating position.

The key is that the stronger one's BATNA, the greater their negotiating power and ability to secure favorable terms. Developing robust alternatives to a negotiated agreement is critical for effective negotiation.


Let's take a look at some key quotes from "Getting to Yes" that resonated with readers.

People listen better if they feel that you have understood them. They tend to think that those who understand them are intelligent and sympathetic people whose own opinions may be worth listening to. So if you want the other side to appreciate your interests, begin by demonstrating that you appreciate theirs.

When you take the time to understand someone's perspective, they are more likely to listen to and consider your own views. This is because people tend to perceive those who show empathy and understanding as intelligent and sympathetic individuals worthy of being heard. By actively listening and acknowledging the other person's interests, you create a foundation for a more productive and respectful conversation. This approach fosters a sense of mutual respect, encouraging the other party to be more receptive to your own needs and concerns.

Any method of negotiation may be fairly judged by three criteria: It should produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible. It should be efficient. And it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties.

A successful negotiation method should yield a mutually beneficial agreement when possible. It should also be efficient, saving time and resources. Furthermore, the method should foster a positive relationship between parties, or at the very least, avoid damaging it. This ensures that all parties involved feel valued and respected throughout the negotiation process.

The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess.

Empathy is a vital skill in negotiation, allowing one to understand the opposing party's perspective and concerns. By putting oneself in their shoes, a negotiator can identify potential areas of agreement and craft solutions that address the other side's needs. This empathetic approach fosters trust and cooperation, increasing the likelihood of a mutually beneficial outcome. It requires a willingness to listen actively and set aside one's own biases.

Comprehension Questions

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How well do you understand the key insights in "Getting to Yes"? Find out by answering the questions below. Try to answer the question yourself before revealing the answer! Mark the questions as done once you've answered them.

1. What is the central focus of principled negotiation, contrasting it with traditional 'soft' and 'hard' tactics?
2. How does principled negotiation preserve personal relationships during the negotiation process?
3. What traits does principled negotiation encourage in participants?
4. Why does principled negotiation become easier to use when the other side is also familiar with the method?
5. What are the benefits of shifting the discussion in negotiations from positions to interests?
6. What is the benefit of treating negotiation counterparts with respect and empathy while addressing substantive issues?
7. How should one handle relationship issues that arise during negotiations?
8. Why is it important to focus on the problem, not the people, in negotiation contexts?
9. What is the effect of supporting an individual while simultaneously challenging the problem they are related to?
10. How can matching an unproductive behavior be detrimental in negotiations?
11. Why is it deemed inefficient to negotiate based on rigid positions rather than underlying interests?
12. How can understanding the interests behind another party's position benefit a negotiation?
13. What are the disadvantages of positional bargaining in achieving effective agreements?
14. In what ways does focusing on interests shift the dynamics of negotiation?
15. What is the primary benefit of generating a wide range of solutions before finalizing a negotiation agreement?
16. Why is it important to focus on the needs and concerns of the other side in a negotiation?
17. How can 'expanding the pie' influence negotiation outcomes?
18. What role does creativity play in successful negotiations?
19. What should guide the decisions in negotiations instead of power dynamics or threats?
20. How do objective criteria influence the negotiation process?
21. What can parties consider doing when objective criteria are unavailable or disputed?
22. Why is it beneficial to base negotiations on objective criteria rather than on power or arbitrary decisions?
23. What is a BATNA and why is it important in negotiations?
24. How does improving your BATNA increase your negotiating power?
25. What should you consider about the other party's position when strategizing in negotiations?
26. Why is it important to invest time and effort into developing your BATNA?

Action Questions

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"Knowledge without application is useless," Bruce Lee said. Answer the questions below to practice applying the key insights from "Getting to Yes". Mark the questions as done once you've answered them.

1. How can you identify and communicate your interests in a negotiation to ensure a solution that benefits both parties?
2. How can you modify your approach in discussions to ensure that you are addressing the issue rather than the person involved?
3. What are some strategies you can employ to maintain emotional neutrality while discussing contentious issues?
4. How can understanding the underlying interests in a dispute help you create more effective solutions?
5. What steps can you take to shift a discussion from rigid stances to exploring underlying needs during a negotiation?
6. How can you apply the concept of generating a wide range of solutions in your next team meeting to ensure inclusive outcomes?
7. What strategies can you use in your next negotiation to ensure both sides leave feeling like winners?
8. How can you establish and apply objective criteria in your current or upcoming negotiations to ensure fair and unbiased outcomes?
9. How can you identify and improve your alternatives in a current or upcoming negotiation to strengthen your position?
10. What strategies can you employ to better understand and weaken the other side’s alternatives during a negotiation?

Chapter Notes


Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Negotiation is a Ubiquitous Fact of Life: Negotiation is a common occurrence in everyday life, from discussing a raise with your boss to settling a lawsuit. Even when people don't think of themselves as negotiating, they are often doing so, such as when deciding where to go for dinner with a spouse or when the lights go out with a child.

  • Negotiation Involves Shared and Opposed Interests: Negotiation is a back-and-forth communication process designed to reach an agreement when the parties have some shared interests and some opposed interests.

  • Traditional Negotiation Strategies are Problematic: The standard "soft" and "hard" negotiation strategies often leave people dissatisfied, worn out, or alienated. The "soft" negotiator makes concessions readily to avoid conflict, while the "hard" negotiator sees negotiation as a contest of wills.

  • Principled Negotiation as an Alternative: Principled negotiation is a third way to negotiate that is "hard on the merits, soft on the people." It focuses on deciding issues based on their merits rather than through a haggling process, and looks for mutual gains where possible.

  • Universality of Principled Negotiation: Principled negotiation can be used in a wide variety of contexts, from international diplomacy to personal disputes. It is an all-purpose strategy that becomes easier to use if the other side also learns it.


Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Positional Bargaining Leads to Unwise Agreements: When negotiators take positions and argue over them, they tend to become committed to those positions, making it difficult to find a solution that meets the legitimate interests of both parties. This can lead to agreements that are less satisfactory than they could have been.

  • Positional Bargaining is Inefficient: Bargaining over positions creates incentives that stall settlement, as each side tries to improve their bargaining position by making small concessions and dragging out the process. This can significantly increase the time and cost of reaching an agreement, or even result in no agreement at all.

  • Positional Bargaining Damages Relationships: Positional bargaining becomes a contest of will, with each side trying to force the other to change their position. This can lead to anger, resentment, and a breakdown in the relationship between the parties, even in long-standing commercial or personal relationships.

  • Positional Bargaining is Worse with Multiple Parties: When there are many parties involved in a negotiation, positional bargaining becomes even more problematic. It becomes difficult to make reciprocal concessions, and parties often form coalitions based on shared interests that are more symbolic than substantive.

  • "Being Nice" is Not the Answer: While a soft, friendly negotiating style may produce quick agreements, it can also result in sloppy agreements that do not effectively meet the parties' legitimate interests. Additionally, a soft style makes the negotiator vulnerable to a harder, more aggressive bargaining approach.

  • Principled Negotiation as an Alternative: The authors propose an alternative method called "principled negotiation" or "negotiation on the merits," which focuses on: (1) separating the people from the problem, (2) focusing on interests rather than positions, (3) generating options for mutual gain, and (4) using objective criteria to reach an agreement.

  • Applying Principled Negotiation: The four principles of principled negotiation can be applied throughout the negotiation process, from the analysis stage to the planning stage to the discussion stage. This method is designed to produce wise, efficient, and amicable agreements.


Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Separate the People from the Problem: Negotiators should deal with the people involved as human beings with emotions, values, and different viewpoints, while focusing on the problem itself. Separating the relationship from the substance allows negotiators to deal directly with people problems using psychological techniques.

  • Focus on Interests, Not Positions: Negotiators should look behind the stated positions of the parties to uncover their underlying interests, which can often be reconciled through creative solutions that meet the needs of both sides.

  • Invent Options for Mutual Gain: Negotiators should separate the process of inventing options from the process of deciding among them, and should strive to generate a wide range of possible agreements that create value for both sides.

  • Use Objective Criteria: Negotiators should insist that any agreement be based on fair standards, procedures, and principles that are independent of the will of the parties, rather than relying on positional bargaining.

  • Make Their Decision Easy: Negotiators should try to develop options that are easy for the other side to accept, by taking their perspective, addressing their concerns, and making the consequences of their decision as appealing as possible.

  • Shared Interests: Even in situations where the parties have conflicting positions, there are often shared interests that can be the basis for a mutually beneficial agreement.

  • Dovetailing Differing Interests: Negotiators can often find creative solutions by taking advantage of differences between the parties in their interests, beliefs, values, forecasts, and attitudes toward risk.

  • Principled Negotiation: Negotiating based on objective criteria, rather than positional bargaining, can lead to wiser, more efficient, and more amicable agreements, while also protecting the relationship between the parties.


Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Protecting Yourself from a Bad Agreement: Adopting a "bottom line" can protect you from accepting a very bad agreement, but it may also prevent you from inventing and agreeing to a wise solution. Instead, develop your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) as the standard against which to judge any proposed agreement.

  • Leveraging Your BATNA: The better your BATNA, the greater your negotiating power. Investing time and effort into developing your BATNA can significantly strengthen your position, even against a seemingly more powerful negotiator.

  • Negotiation Jujitsu: When the other side uses positional bargaining tactics like asserting firm positions, attacking your ideas, or attacking you personally, don't push back directly. Instead, sidestep their attacks and redirect the discussion towards exploring interests, inventing options, and using objective criteria.

  • Dealing with Deception: Recognize and address deliberate deception about facts, authority, or intentions. Separate the people from the problem, focus on interests, and insist on using objective criteria to counter deceptive tactics.

  • Countering Psychological Warfare: Be aware of tactics designed to make you feel uncomfortable, such as manipulating the physical environment or using personal attacks. Identify the problem, raise it explicitly, and negotiate better circumstances based on principle.

  • Resisting Positional Pressure: Tactics like refusal to negotiate, extreme demands, escalating demands, and "take it or leave it" offers are designed to structure the situation to your disadvantage. Bring these tactics to the other side's attention, insist on principled negotiation, and be prepared to walk away if necessary.

  • Maintaining Your Integrity: Decide on your own ethical standards for negotiation and be prepared to fight "dirty" tactics. Defend principle rather than resorting to illegitimate tactics yourself.


  • Common Sense and Common Experience: The book aims to organize common sense and common experience into a usable framework for thinking and acting. The more consistent these ideas are with the reader's knowledge and intuition, the better.

  • Learning by Doing: While the book can point the reader in a promising direction and make them aware of ideas and their own actions, true skill can only be developed through personal experience and practice. Reading about a skill does not make one an expert.

  • Negotiation is not a "Winning" Game: Asking "who's winning" in a negotiation is inappropriate, as it implies the negotiation is a competitive game. Instead, the goal should be to establish a better process for dealing with differences and achieving mutually satisfactory outcomes, rather than simply "winning" on the merits.

  • Principled Negotiation: The method of principled negotiation, as described in the book, is intended to produce good substantive results over the long run, while also being more efficient and less costly to human relationships. It allows the negotiator to achieve both the satisfaction of getting what they deserve and being decent.

  • Changing Habits and Emotions: Implementing the principled negotiation method can be challenging, as it requires disentangling emotions from the merits of the negotiation and changing established habits. Reminding oneself that the primary goal is to establish a better way to negotiate can help overcome these difficulties.

Ten Questions People Ask About Getting to YES

Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Positional Bargaining vs. Principled Negotiation: Positional bargaining is easy but often leads to arbitrary outcomes, whereas principled negotiation (looking for interests, inventing options, using objective criteria) leads to better outcomes for both sides, though it requires more effort.

  • Dealing with Different Standards of Fairness: There may be no single "right" or "fairest" standard, but using external standards can help narrow the range of disagreement and expand the area of potential agreement.

  • Deciding Whether to Take Unfair Advantage: While you don't have to be "good for the sake of being good," taking unfair advantage can have significant costs in terms of damaged relationships, reputations, and your own conscience.

  • Separating People Issues from Substantive Issues: Ignoring people issues can be perilous, so build a good working relationship independent of agreement or disagreement, and negotiate relationship issues on their own merits.

  • Negotiating with Difficult Parties: Even with terrorists or someone like Hitler, negotiation is often preferable to the alternatives, as long as you have a better BATNA. The key is to focus on influencing their decisions, not necessarily rewarding their behavior.

  • Adapting Your Approach to Individual Differences: Adjust your negotiation style to the other party's personality, gender, culture, etc., but avoid stereotyping and be open to learning that they are different than expected.

  • Tactical Considerations: The specifics of where to meet, who should make the first offer, and how high to start depend on the context, so focus on thorough preparation rather than following generic rules.

  • Moving from Options to Commitments: Gradually work towards a final agreement, using techniques like framework agreements, tentative commitments, and carefully crafted offers and requests.

  • Enhancing Your Negotiating Power: There are many sources of power, including a good BATNA, effective communication, understanding interests, creative options, and legitimate standards. Use these in harmony to maximize your influence.

  • The Importance of Preparation and Belief: Thorough preparation is key, but you must also believe in and own the approach you take. Experimentation and adjustment may be required to find what works best for you.


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