Things I Learned from Getting To Yes – and Negotiating like a Winner

One thing about good business books – they’re few and far between. Most just parrot previous books – with a few nicey-nice feel-good stories thrown in.

I really enjoyed Getting To Yes. The best nugget of advice I found towards the end. “Don’t ask ‘who’s more powerful?’ If you conclude that you are more powerful, you may relax and not prepare as well as you should. If you conclude that you are weaker, you will be discouraged and again not devote sufficient attention to how you might persuade them. In fact, a great deal can be done to enhance your negotiation power even when the resource balance is one-sided. You won’t find out what’s possible unless you try. Sometimes people seem to prefer feeling powerless and believing that there is nothing they can do to affect a situation. That belief helps them to avoid feeling responsible or guilty about inaction. It also avoids the costs of trying to change the situation. It is a self-defeating and self-fulfilling attitude. The best rule of thumb is to be optimistic – to let your reach exceed your grasp. The more you try for, the more you are likely to get. Studies of negotiation consistently show a strong correlation between aspiration and result. Within reason, it pays to think positively.”

Four elements of principled negotiation

  1. People – Separate the people from the problem.
    1. Be soft on the people, hard on the problem.
    2. Proceed independent of trust.
    3. Understand the role of perception. Out of a mass of detailed information, people tend to pick out and focus on those facts that confirm their prior perceptions and to disregard or misinterpret those that call their perceptions into question… the ability to see the situation as the other side sees it is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess.
    4. Have the other side participate in the process to give them a feeling of participation.
    5. Make emotions explicit and acknowledge them as legitimate. “You know, the people on our side feel we have been mistreated and are very upset. We’re afraid…”
  2. Interests – Focus on interests, not positions.
    1. Explore interests.
      1. Acknowledge their interests as part of the problem. “As I understand it your interests as a construction company are… do I understand you correctly? Do you have other important interests?”
      2. Be specific on your interests. “Three times in the last week, xxx”
      3. Use cognitive dissonance. By expressing strong support for a company representative personally while strongly attacking the company’s stance, the listener will hear an inconsistency and subconsciously work to reconcile it.
    2. Avoid having a bottom line.
  3. Options – Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do.
    1. Brainstorming- define the purpose, choose a few participants, change the environment (informal), and choose a facilitator. Clarify ground rules and set participants side by side facing the problem. Record the ideas in full view. Afterwards, star the most promising ideas, and set a time to evaluate the ideas and decide.
  4. Criteria – Insist that the result be based on some objective standard. (Yield to principle not pressure. Reason and be open to reason.)
    1. Have a BATNA – a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – in your back pocket. The better this is, the greater your power.
    2. Use the one-text format (a written proposal) back and forth w/yes-no voting by opposing sides with a mediator.

Phrases to Remember

  • “What concerns of yours would this proposal fail to take into account?” (don’t defend your ideas, invite criticism)
  • Ask them what they would do in your position: “If you were leading this association, how would you act?”
  • Recast an attack on you as an attack on the problem: “When you say that xxx, I hear your concern about XXX…What can we both do now to reach an agreement as quickly as possible?”
  • Silence is one of your best weapons. Use it.
  • “Please correct me if I’m wrong. Have we been misinformed?”
  • “We appreciate what you’ve done for us.”
  • “Our concern is fairness.”
  • “I must not be making myself clear. Of course xxx… But that’s not the point. More important to us than making a few dollars is the feeling of being treated fairly. No one likes to feel cheated. We want ot handle this problem fairly on the basis of some independent standard, rather than who can do what to whom.”
  • “Trust is a separate issue.”
  • “Can I ask you a few questions to see whether my facts are right?”
  • What’s the principle behind your action?
  • Let me see if I understand what you’re saying.
  • Now that I think I understand your point of view, let me talk to my partner and explain it. Can I get back to you tomorrow sometime?
  • Let me show you where I have trouble following some of your reasoning.
  • One fair solution might be….
  • If we could reach agreement now, X. If we can’t reach an agreement, Y. We are extremely reluctant to take that course. We feel confident we can settle this matter fairly to your satisfaction and ours.
  • It’s been a pleasure dealing with you.

Common Tricky Tactics

  • Phony facts. (If you can’t verify it, its not a fact.)
  • Ambiguous authority (giving a second bite of the apple) – going to a second person for approval. Ask first, “Just how much authority do you have in this particular negotiation?”
  • Dubious intentions.
  • Psychological warfare. (short chair, back to the open door, sun in eyes.) If you find the physical surroundings prejudicial, do not hesitate to say so. Suggest changing chairs or taking a break/reschedule.
  • Personal attacks. (“Looks like you were up all night. Things not going well?”)
  • Good guy / bad guy routine
  • Threats
  • Extreme demands
  • Refusal to negotiate
  • Escalating demands (Yes, but there is one small problem…) – Call this to their attention and take a break.
  • Calculated delays
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