RogerFisher, Professor of Law, Emeritus at the Harvard Law School was one of the topminds in the field of International Law and negotiation and was a major part ofestablishing Negotiation and Conflict Resolution as a field of academic study.He also co-founded the Harvard Negotiation Project along with William Ury,author, academician, anthropologist and an expert in negotiation. Harvard Negotiationproject is a mission created in order to deal with issues of negotiations andconflict resolution. William Ury has authored number of books like Getting To Yes,co-authored by Fisher, Getting Past No, Beyond The Hotline, Getting DisputesResolved, Must We fight, The Power Of a Positive No etc., in the field ofNegotiation and Conflict Management. GettingTo Yes by Fisher and Ury, a good read for anyone who is in the situation ofnegotiation, which implies it’s for everyone, as we all deal with differentkinds of negotiations as a part of everyday life. The book is more relevant for those who engagein large negotiations, deals worth millions, as a part of large entities.
It focuses on ways or methods for those whoaim to be better negotiators and to get the maximum value out of a negotiationprocess. The book describes a generic strategy that is usable on almost everytype of negotiation and conflict management process. The book is a very good resource,which seems as an outcome of long researches and experiential learning, quitewell educates the reader with the nuisances of a negotiation. Thebook begins with describing the importance of willingness to maintain a cordialrelationship between the parties engaged in a negotiation. It differentiatesbetween bargaining and a negotiation process and explains how positionalbargaining ruins the essence of a good negotiation. The authors bring in theconcept of principled negotiation which consists of a list of four principles actingas the skeleton of the book. These are four major areas on which an effectivenegotiator must focus on.
Thelist begins with the peoples’ problem. Negotiation is a game of psychology asdescribed by Wheeler in the book Art of Negotiation. People’s emotions play avery important part in a negotiation environment, so important that it has the strengthto make or break the process. This importance is rightly captured by theauthors and they suggest separating people from the issues, which disarms theeffect of uncontrolled emotions in the air. The three basic kinds of people’sproblem mentioned here are as following. First, the problem of differences onperceptions, Second, the problem of emotions, more precisely, uncontrolled emotions,followed by the problem of communication, majorly the importance of activelistening. This list broadly covers most of the problems arises due to thebasic human nature which inevitably possesses various forms of biases and irrationality.Thenext principle to be focused on is the interest of the parties in thenegotiation process.
The book suggests focusing on the objectives and theinterests of the parties than the position of the parties. Holding on to aposition and exhibiting power for wrong reasons or out of ego may lead to destruction;history has good examples of this fact. This is a very important point, whichinsists the negotiators to take into account all the interests, viewpoints ofall the parties and to hold an open mind towards the positions they might haveto hold, that for sure would lead to a fruitful negotiation. Theother two principles are to generate options and to use objective criteria.
Thebrief reasons for a party to not consider many options are narrow-mindednessand as discussed above, the non-willingness to hold other positions. Creativityis an essential trait of a successful negotiator. The parties should be able tocome up with creative offers that benefit all the sides of a negotiationprocess. The authors explain how shifting between different areas of thinking;Stating, Analyzing the problem, considering general approaches and specific actions, would help experimentingwith various options and bring maximum value to the table. By Using objectivecriteria, the authors try to explain how to bring in the professional standardsonto the table, considering shared interests of the parties and make thenegotiation principled, if not.
The authors successfully impart the knowledgeof principled negotiation in a very structured and understandable way. Thetext also explains a concept of Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement(BATNA). This is used generally by a party, more specifically when the other partyin more powerful, not willing to let go of their position, more into positionalbargaining etc. This concept ofessentially having a clear BATNA before getting into the negotiation process eliminatesthe drawbacks of approaching the table with a bottom line and helps to raisethe value that can be taken home by the so-called weaker party. The otherstrategies like “Negotiation jujitsu”; refusing to cave in to a positionalbargainer and bring them in line with the principled negotiation, usingstrategic silences and using the one test approach, using a third party.
The book also briefs the actionsthat a party must take when the other party is found to use unethical means. Thoughthe book might seem very theoretical, the concepts described in the book, ifpracticed rigorously, can yield best outcomes in a negotiation. GettingPast No by William Ury can be looked as a sequel to the above. This book emphasizeson situations which are difficult, when the parties are uncooperative, unwillingto build a relationship and act as opponents rather than partners. The authordescribes five strategies to approach such situations. The first strategy, againaddressing the psychological aspect of a negotiation process; to distanceoneself emotionally, the approach called “Going to the Balcony”. This means thata person should refrain from being reactive to such a difficult situation, recognizethat the uncontrolled emotions at this point could lead to losses. The partiesshould refrain from making any counter offers but ask some time to think withan unclouded mind.
Thenext strategy is to sound agreeing but at the same time putting forward ones’interest as well. When a person is agreed upon, he is expected to turn receptiveto the statements made following the ‘yes’. The third strategy is to raise constructivequestions about the statement made by the party so as to elicit their interest andnot sound doubtful. The other strategyis to recognize the intangible interest in the process and address them. Mostpeople give more importance to their face value than to the monetary benefits. Throughoutthis process of dealing with difficult people, it is very important to stayemotionally intelligent, have good emotional quotient, recast or redirectpersonal attacks on the problem and utilize the ability to defuse unprincipledaspects of the negotiations.
Thisbook is found to be more applicable, not only for a negotiation situation, but alsoto deal with difficult personal situations. Most of the concepts discussedabove in both of the books, are not newly invented. The concepts are known andcan be looked as part of our very common sense. But the authors have done abrilliant job of collating them, giving them a proper structure, making themassimilative and insisting upon the importance of each point discussed.
Thesebooks remind us of inevitable mistakes as humans we make, recognize them and actaccordingly to eliminate the negative effects to a possible extent.