Fisher, Professor of Law, Emeritus at the Harvard Law School was one of the top
minds in the field of International Law and negotiation and was a major part of
establishing 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 Negotiation
project is a mission created in order to deal with issues of negotiations and
conflict resolution. William Ury has authored number of books like Getting To Yes,
co-authored by Fisher, Getting Past No, Beyond The Hotline, Getting Disputes
Resolved, Must We fight, The Power Of a Positive No etc., in the field of
Negotiation and Conflict Management.

To Yes by Fisher and Ury, a good read for anyone who is in the situation of
negotiation, which implies it’s for everyone, as we all deal with different
kinds of negotiations as a part of everyday life.  The book is more relevant for those who engage
in large negotiations, deals worth millions, as a part of large entities.  It focuses on ways or methods for those who
aim to be better negotiators and to get the maximum value out of a negotiation
process. The book describes a generic strategy that is usable on almost every
type of negotiation and conflict management process. The book is a very good resource,
which seems as an outcome of long researches and experiential learning, quite
well educates the reader with the nuisances of a negotiation.

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book begins with describing the importance of willingness to maintain a cordial
relationship between the parties engaged in a negotiation. It differentiates
between bargaining and a negotiation process and explains how positional
bargaining ruins the essence of a good negotiation. The authors bring in the
concept of principled negotiation which consists of a list of four principles acting
as the skeleton of the book. These are four major areas on which an effective
negotiator must focus on.

list begins with the peoples’ problem. Negotiation is a game of psychology as
described by Wheeler in the book Art of Negotiation. People’s emotions play a
very important part in a negotiation environment, so important that it has the strength
to make or break the process. This importance is rightly captured by the
authors and they suggest separating people from the issues, which disarms the
effect of uncontrolled emotions in the air. The three basic kinds of people’s
problem mentioned here are as following. First, the problem of differences on
perceptions, Second, the problem of emotions, more precisely, uncontrolled emotions,
followed by the problem of communication, majorly the importance of active
listening. This list broadly covers most of the problems arises due to the
basic human nature which inevitably possesses various forms of biases and irrationality.

next principle to be focused on is the interest of the parties in the
negotiation process. The book suggests focusing on the objectives and the
interests of the parties than the position of the parties. Holding on to a
position 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, which
insists the negotiators to take into account all the interests, viewpoints of
all the parties and to hold an open mind towards the positions they might have
to hold, that for sure would lead to a fruitful negotiation.

other two principles are to generate options and to use objective criteria. The
brief reasons for a party to not consider many options are narrow-mindedness
and as discussed above, the non-willingness to hold other positions. Creativity
is an essential trait of a successful negotiator. The parties should be able to
come up with creative offers that benefit all the sides of a negotiation
process. The authors explain how shifting between different areas of thinking;
Stating, Analyzing the problem, considering general approaches and  specific actions, would help experimenting
with various options and bring maximum value to the table. By Using objective
criteria, the authors try to explain how to bring in the professional standards
onto the table, considering shared interests of the parties and make the
negotiation principled, if not. The authors successfully impart the knowledge
of principled negotiation in a very structured and understandable way.

text also explains a concept of Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement
(BATNA). This is used generally by a party, more specifically when the other party
in more powerful, not willing to let go of their position, more into positional
bargaining etc.  This concept of
essentially having a clear BATNA before getting into the negotiation process eliminates
the drawbacks of approaching the table with a bottom line and helps to raise
the value that can be taken home by the so-called weaker party. The other
strategies like “Negotiation jujitsu”; refusing to cave in to a positional
bargainer and bring them in line with the principled negotiation, using
strategic silences and using the one test approach, using  a third party. The book also briefs the actions
that a party must take when the other party is found to use unethical means. Though
the book might seem very theoretical, the concepts described in the book, if
practiced rigorously, can yield best outcomes in a negotiation.

Past No by William Ury can be looked as a sequel to the above. This book emphasizes
on situations which are difficult, when the parties are uncooperative, unwilling
to build a relationship and act as opponents rather than partners. The author
describes five strategies to approach such situations. The first strategy, again
addressing the psychological aspect of a negotiation process; to distance
oneself emotionally, the approach called “Going to the Balcony”. This means that
a person should refrain from being reactive to such a difficult situation, recognize
that the uncontrolled emotions at this point could lead to losses. The parties
should refrain from making any counter offers but ask some time to think with
an unclouded mind.

next 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 receptive
to the statements made following the ‘yes’. The third strategy is to raise constructive
questions about the statement made by the party so as to elicit their interest and
not sound doubtful.  The other strategy
is to recognize the intangible interest in the process and address them. Most
people give more importance to their face value than to the monetary benefits. Throughout
this process of dealing with difficult people, it is very important to stay
emotionally intelligent, have good emotional quotient, recast or redirect
personal attacks on the problem and utilize the ability to defuse unprincipled
aspects of the negotiations.  

book is found to be more applicable, not only for a negotiation situation, but also
to deal with difficult personal situations. Most of the concepts discussed
above in both of the books, are not newly invented. The concepts are known and
can be looked as part of our very common sense. But the authors have done a
brilliant job of collating them, giving them a proper structure, making them
assimilative and insisting upon the importance of each point discussed. These
books remind us of inevitable mistakes as humans we make, recognize them and act
accordingly to eliminate the negative effects to a possible extent.