This is the April 2019 meeting of my business bookclub. We covered Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Rodger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton
Positional bargaining can produce unwise agreements, is inefficient, endangers ongoing relationships, can be complex if there are multiple parties, and being nice is not a solution. In Getting to Yes, the alternative is called “principled negotiation,” or negotiating merit. Four points that define this- people (separate the people from the problem), interests (focus on interests, not positions), options (give a variety of possibilities before deciding), and criteria (insist the results be based on some objective standard).
Negotiators are people. There are two kinds of interests when you’re negotiating- substance and the relationship. Separate the relationship from the substance and deal with the people. Understand what the other side is thinking. Don’t try to determine what their intentions are from what your fears are, and don’t blame them for your problems. You need to discuss each other’s perceptions. Give them a stake in the outcome and make sure they participate in the process to reach a consensus. Get the other side involved early, let them save face, make your proposal consistent with their values. You have to recognize and understand both your and their emotions. Make sure that emotions are explicitly described and acknowledge them as legitimate. While you’re communicating, listen actively and acknowledge what’s being said. Speak to be understood, and only speak about yourself, not about them.
In Getting To Yes to come to a good solution, make sure everybody’s interests are reconciled, and not their positions. Even if it seems that you’re on opposing sides, you will find that there are shared and compatible interests in addition to the conflicting ones. There will be areas of mutual interest, and you need to find what those are. One of the ways to do this is to ask “why?”
Invent options where both sides gain. Separate the act of inventing options from the act of judging them, broaden the options on the table rather than looking for one single answer, search for areas where you can both gain, and invent ways of making the decision easy. Use an objective criteria so that each side knows that their interests are going to be both met. Either use fair standards for the substantive question, or fair procedure for resolving conflicting interests. An example of this is the idea of one cuts, the other chooses. This lets both sides participate in the arrangement before they decide what roles are going to play in the agreement.
Getting to Yes lists three basic points to remember when you’re negotiating with an objective criteria- frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria; be open to reason as to standards that are appropriate and how they should be applied; and don’t yield to pressure, only to principle. There will be times in negotiations when there is an uneven amount of power on one side versus the other. In these situations, develop a best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Know what your BATNA is when you’re going into a negotiation. The standard that you should use to measure the outcome of the negotiation is your BATNA. By knowing what your BATNA is, it keeps you from accepting terms that are too unfavorable and rejecting ones that would have actually been in your interest to agree to.
Sometimes you find that the other side is not such a willing partner in your negotiation. This is actually a form of positional negotiation, and you want to make sure that you don’t fall into that trap. Use what the authors call “negotiation jujitsu.” Remember to not attack their position, but look behind it. Treat it as just one of the possible options. Don’t defend your ideas, invite their criticism and advice. This will bring them into a negotiation more along the lines of how you want to frame it. If they attack you, restate it as actually an attack on the problem.
Two great tools in negotiation jujitsu is to ask a question and then pause. Silence is a great weapon. Wait for the other side to talk themselves into your position.
Sometimes the person you’re negotiating with is going to use some tricky tactics in their negotiation. Deliberate deception is lies and phony facts. The other side might lead you to believe that they have authority to compromise, when really they don’t. Psychological warfare can be stressful situations, personal attacks, using good guy/bad guy routines, and even threats. Positional pressure tactics are designed to set up a situation where only one side can effectively make concessions. This can be a refusal to negotiate, extreme or escalating demands, lock-in tactics, being a hard-hearted partner, using a calculated delay, or a take it or leave it confrontation.
Negotiation is a learned from doing. You’re not going to improve your negotiations if you don’t do it more.
Find the book on Amazon.
Learn more about the Harvard Negotiation Project here.