Review: Getting to YES

Title: Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In Authors: Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce M. Patton Published: 1991 Length: 200 pages

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has to negotiate with others. So basically – everyone. On a daily basis, you probably negotiate with your spouse, coworkers, landlords, potential employers, business owners, labor unions, and foreign governments. This book explains several principles of negotiation that are applicable to all of these relationships.

The book first discusses the problems of bargaining with positions, arguing that the optimal result rarely occurs because people dig themselves in and see the problem as a battle of wills. As an alternative, the book presents a method of approaching negotiating conflict from a few different perspectives. One part of the method is the ability to separate the people from the problem. In other words, being able to attack the problem with the other person instead of making the other person part of the problem is an important first step in successful negotiation. Another tenet is that one should focus on finding interests, both common and differing, that the parties involved have. Without understanding the interests that people have behind their stated positions, it is difficult to come up with agreements that are optimal. The book next focuses on methods of generating interesting solutions given the interests of the parties. Finally, the book goes into sections about when not to negotiate and how to avoid negotiation traps or pitfalls of a varied nature.

I can definitely see two reasons to read this book. One is for internal relations. Let’s say someone reviews your code and there are two differing opinions on how something should be implemented. Using the techniques of the book, you can get at the heart of the problem much easier. The other reason is for external relations. If you are discussing requirements or project scope with a client, there is invariably a form of negotiation going on. By being better able to understand the client’s interests, you are better able to provide value for them. The book has made me think quite a bit about listening to others’ perspectives before offering my own, and I find that the lessons are pretty universally applicable as well as understandable.

As usual, Wikipedia has an excellent outline of the main points, although you will get much more by reading the book as well.

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