Getting to Yes

I have a particular interest in negotiation. Perhaps it’s because negotiations are such a common fixture in our lives, yet we give little regard to how we might nail them.


Getting to Yes with a side of Pret a Manger

We negotiate all day long. Some negotiations are substantial, like entering into a long term supply contract on behalf of your company, and some are everyday, like deciding where to go for brunch. In every negotiation there will almost certainly be a plethora of commercial, tactical and human elements at play.

So wouldn’t it be great if you were a skilled negotiator, capable of securing the best deal for yourself, or your employer, almost every time, and doing so as quickly and cheaply as possible, while maintaining your relationships. It’s a win, win, win scenario and I want some of it. So…

I recently spent three weeks at the London School of Economics studying Advanced Negotiation and Mediation. It was so great. The Academic staff at the LSE are second to none and each day I had the benefit of small, interactive lectures with the vibrant Professor Linda Mulcahy – researcher, author, editor, possessor of soothing British accent and many an anecdote that make learning a pleasure. (More info about the LSE and its Summer Programme below.)

The course advocated the ‘Getting to Yes’ method of negotiation as championed by Fisher and Ury and the Harvard Negotiation Project. The ‘Getting to Yes’ method entered the public realm via the 1981 best seller of the same name  and has been supported by academics and practitioners alike ever since (I read and will refer to the second edition, published in 2012).

Getting to Yes was required reading for the course and set the tone for many of the lectures and practical sessions that unfolded across the weeks. To call it a text book would place an unwarranted chip on its shoulder, for it is a short, snappy read of interest to anyone who might find themselves in a negotiation (which is everyone!).

According to Fisher and Ury, and many others since, the best means of ‘Getting to Yes’ is through principled negotiation. Principled negotiation has a strong record as an effective alternative to the traditional soft or hard styles of negotiation. Principled negotiation has been used in everything from salary negotiations to hostage situations and international military dispute resolution.

The building blocks of principled negotiation are:

1. Separate the people from the problem
See past the emotions and emphasise

2. Focus on interests not positions
Positions obscure the real issues

3. Invent options for mutual gain
Seek win-win solutions

4. Insist on using objective criteria
Find a solution that is fair according to objective standards and independent of will

As mentioned above, in every negotiation there will be commercial, tactical and human matters at play. This is obvious in some cases, such as a divorce, and less so but just as impactive in others, such as in a commercial transaction involving a company represented by an executive, where the executive’s ability to snag a deal is directly linked to their take home pay that year. Principled negotiation is effective at breaking through these barriers, and securing efficient and amicable agreements, whatever the background.

There is much to be said about each of the ‘building blocks’. I will write about those in time.

‘Til Then

Thought leader(s): Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton (Harvard),  Professor Linda Mulcahy (LSE)

Source(s): Source(s): Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton (2012) ‘Getting to Yes’, 2nd Edition, Penguin. 

The London School of Economics: Short Courses


3 thoughts on “Getting to Yes

  1. Pingback: From Boring to Barack in 30 days | thingsilearnt

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