Getting To Yes (1981), Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton - Book Summary

Getting to Yes (1981) is considered a reference for successful negotiations. The book presents proven tools and techniques that can help you resolve any conflict and find beneficial solutions.

This book is for

  • Those interested in improving their negotiation skills, at work, at home, or both;
  • Those who want to learn how to find win-win solutions to nearly any conflict.

About the author

  • Roger Fisher (1922-2012) was an American professor at Harvard Law School. With his co-author, he founded the Harvard Negotiation Project.
  • William Ury is an anthropologist, working as a peace negotiator for corporations and governments around the world.
  • Bruce Patton is a Harvard lecturer and co-founder of Vantage Partners, an international consulting firm that helps companies improve negotiations.

Learn how to negotiate well; Everything is based on negotiations.

This is sometimes hard to imagine, but only a few decades ago decisions were rarely made as a result of discussions or negotiations. They are usually done by one person: whoever is in charge.

At that time, the world was a hierarchical place: at home, all decisions related to the family were made by the father, and at work, everyone followed the path specified by the company's boss. .

Today, such authoritarian structures are becoming increasingly rare. The hierarchy is flatter, information is more accessible, and more people are participating in decisions at all levels.

As a result, it becomes much more important for us to talk to others and include them in the decision-making process. Politicians today speak to their constituents, and companies encourage their employees to participate in corporate decisions.

Even parent-child interaction is becoming more and more democratic. In the age of Google, parents no longer simply say, “Don't do this; it's not healthy” because their kids can go online, find objections and argue their point of view.

Today, finding agreement in any area of ​​life means negotiating. Competing with friends for movies to watch is very different from vying for prices with suppliers or negotiating an international arms embargo. However, all negotiations are similar in many ways.

By arming yourself with knowledge and tools, you can quickly fall in love with negotiating. Every day of your life involves negotiation and it's worth the time to do it.

Learn how to negotiate well; Everything is based on negotiation.

Avoid guerrilla war. Cost a lot and bring little profit

Conflict often turns into guerrilla warfare – focusing on hitting the opponent's weak point quickly, quickly: both sides hold a position, defend it fiercely, and only give in if forced to. In that case, finding a solution is not the result of negotiation; either the more stubborn side wins, or a compromise is found that both sides can accept, more or less.

The problem with these types of conflicts is that both sides have already determined the initial position. Instead of finding a good solution together, they both want to "win" or at least avoid embarrassing defeat. Such thinking prevents a mutually beneficial solution.

This often leads to an open battle, which costs a lot of time and energy. Even worse, often both sides will be pushed into unnecessarily extreme positions because they want concessions. In fact, this only leads to longer and harsher controversies.

Not only does this type of conflict make conflict resolution more difficult, it can also damage the relationship between the two parties: “If 2% discount is more important than a long-term business relationship of us, maybe you should find another supplier!”.

Battles focus on a bad opponent's weakness in many ways: providing suboptimal solutions, consuming a lot of time and energy, and damaging the relationship.

Avoid guerrilla warfare. It costs a lot and brings very little profit

Remember that you are negotiating with people.

It is narrow to view bargaining as a factual discussion between well-reasoned individuals. In negotiation, there is not only one fact, there are always at least two subjective interpretations of reality. Both sides bring their own personalities, experiences, values ​​and feelings to the negotiating table.

This means that they often look at things differently and have their own interpretation of the “real thing”. Sometimes two people will talk about completely different things without even realizing they are doing so.

Also, people can react very differently to the same situations, especially if it's a stressful situation. A long, intense discussion can make a person belligerent, which can upset the other party and make them defensive. When this happens, any discussion that follows becomes meaningless.

In each negotiation, the combination of different perceptions and strong emotions is absolutely toxic to finding a mutually satisfactory outcome. And, unfortunately, rational reasoning is not the cure.

Every real negotiation happens on two different levels: the level of factual arguments; cognitive and emotional levels of people.

However, it is not possible to completely separate these two levels, but remember that there is always an interpersonal level besides facts, and this can be the source of many conflicts or misunderstandings.

Therefore, deal with emotions such as anger or fear. This requires empathy and a willingness to consider not only the facts but also the people with whom you are dealing.

Remember that you are negotiating with people.

Fight the problem, not the person you're negotiating with.

The goal of negotiation is never to “win,” as if the other party were an adversary. Instead, both sides should focus on finding a lasting solution together.

This is why negotiators should always separate the factual level of an argument from the level of personal opinion. If you want to negotiate successfully, always maintain the level of truth.

Of course, this can only happen if both sides are willing to approach the issue with reason, not with emotion. This means that both must meet as partners striving for a mutually beneficial solution, not as adversaries in a war that only one side can win.

Ideally, you should steer clear of the subject and look at it from a neutral perspective. Sometimes it simply helps to bring the two sides together on the same side of the negotiating table. In this way, the issue is no longer seen as a fight between you but as one that is put in front of both of you, and can be resolved together.

Both sides should try to use neutral language and stick to the facts. Never bow to personal attacks, and never accuse others of lack of reason, no matter how absurd you may find them. When you do, you create distance, which can cause the other person to lose sight of the truth and respond purely on emotion.

For example, a separated couple should not argue about who caused the marriage to fail; instead, they should discuss future arrangements that will be best for their child.

Fight the problem, not the person you're negotiating with.

Before looking for solutions, understand the underlying concerns of both parties.

Often the positions of two sides in a negotiation seem incompatible. Take a couple's holiday plans as an example: "I want to spend my holidays at the beach," versus "I want to go to the Alps."

But when you look beneath the surface of the benefits of these two positions, you may be surprised at the new solutions that can arise, often without any compromise. If the husband wants to go to the beach so he can swim with his wife/wife who wants to go to the Alps to hike, why not stay at a mountain where there is a lake?

Often, however, the parties are based on multiple interests – not just one. In the example above, the couple's differing views could be the result of many different expectations about geography, shelter, food, etc.

To find a constructive solution, try to understand all the preferences involved. Once you've identified the differences, it's much easier to prioritize and find compromises that don't pose a problem.

What is their goal? At what point do you agree? Where is the weak little difference between you and them? And above all, where do those differences come from?

Often the primary driver of people is their basic need for recognition, control, security, and belonging. If you don't know what's driving the other person, ask them: for example, "Why do you want to go to the Alps?" or “What makes you object to this?”

Also, make sure you understand what's driving you and your concerns. Express them openly before making suggestions. Only when the interests of both parties are clear can you find a solution that both parties are satisfied with.

Before you look for a solution, understand the concerns of both parties.

Outline options before looking for solutions.

When two people negotiate, they often have a clear vision of what kind of outcome they want. Often they carry draft contracts, in the hope of persuading others to agree with them.

Such “solutions” are bound to fail: they are inherently unbalanced because they are based on only one point of view. They are too narrow to provide a practical basis for a common solution.

Instead of making one-sided proposals, be open to discussing all potential solutions and accept only one that both parties are happy to agree on.

See if someone asks you, “Who do you think will win the Nobel Prize in Literature next year?” You probably won't come up with a name right away; Instead, you will assemble a list of candidates and choose one of the options after consideration.

This is exactly how you should look for negotiating results.

Think of negotiation as two distinct phases: first you outline potential solutions, and only then do you actually agree on something. Do not combine the two.

Start by emphasizing the most extreme views, consider different situations, and weigh the details. Get creative: draw sketches, hold consultations, ask the experts,.. Consider making a nice game of coming up with the most extreme views (e.g. ask, “What are the most extreme views?” What will liberals say? What about conservatives?")

You will end up with many potential solutions, and, as you enter the second phase of discussing those solutions, hopefully one of them will be acceptable to both parties.

Outline options before you look for solutions

Always find objective criteria for making decisions.

No matter how good your intentions are, surprising your partner with a full proposal of a solution is not a good way to move negotiations forward. The other person often disagrees and reacts defensively or aggressively.

Instead, first figure out the right criteria to base your decision on. These must be clear and objective so that there is no misinterpretation for both parties.

For example, the right price for a home is not just the target price that the seller or buyer has in mind. A fair price should be estimated based on things like the average price per square meter, the condition of the building, and similar home prices in the area.

All of these criteria are objective and verifiable. When negotiating, both sides need to publicize the criteria for evaluating the quality of the solution. The criteria are not the same, but they should be objective and understandable.

Never use pressure or ultimatums. If someone gives you a number and says, “That's my final offer,” just ask what the basic criteria are; for example, “Why do you consider that a fair price?”

Usually there are no judged and tested standards, gold standards or precedents that you can trust. However, always try to find objective criteria for making your decision.

Whenever you can't find the right criteria, make sure you have at least one fair decision-making process. This aspect of negotiation is understood even in kindergarten, where they teach the “I cut, you choose” method: when a cookie is divided between two children, the first child cuts the cake, but it is better should be fair because the second child gets to choose who gets what.

Always find objective criteria to make your decision

To negotiate well, you have to be well prepared.

Never enter a negotiation unprepared.

Preparation means knowing as much as possible about the facts in advance. Gather all the information you can, and study your data closely.

Learn about both the person you will be dealing with as well as the specific context of the negotiation. What motivates others? What is their purpose? Are they independent in their decisions, or must they consider the interests of their bosses, partners, or spouses? Are there personal, political or religious conditions that you should be aware of?

The more you know, the more you understand the other person, the more likely it is that both of you will find a constructive solution. The less you know, the more likely you are to draw conclusions about unrealistic issues based on biases, speculations, and emotions.

Also, don't underestimate the extra details of the negotiations. When and where should this negotiation take place? At your office? At home? In a neutral place? About the meeting itself: How should it go? By phone? Face to face? Or even in a larger group? What is the role of time? Will pressure in the form of a deadline help or harm the negotiation?

By investing time in detailed research and thorough preparation, you will help create a positive environment in which both parties will feel comfortable. This greatly increases your chances of having a constructive discussion rather than getting stuck in your initial points.

To negotiate well, you have to be well prepared.

Bargaining is communication: listen and talk about the truth!

It's no secret that most conflicts and problems would never have arisen in the first place if there was better communication. Often, misunderstandings and knowledge gaps are what lead to counterarguments, and better communication can help avoid both.

Even if there is an open conflict, make sure your communication is positive and problem-oriented. Let the discussion continue, and do not let the flow be interrupted by the fixed and inflexible arguments of both sides.

To do this, you must first listen. Listen to what others have to say, not just what you want to hear. One way to paraphrase what you hear: “If I understand you correctly, your point is…” This way you show you are listening, and you avoid misunderstandings in the first place because the other person can immediately clarify if something is misunderstood.

Once you understand the other person's point of view, let them know what your preferences are. Don't talk about what you think is wrong and flawed in the other person's point of view; Instead, talk about your expectations and hopes.

Never respond emotionally, but, when necessary, give the other person space to vent their anger or other feelings. When those feelings arise, explain to them; for example: “I understand why you are angry, and I myself was frustrated because…”.

The goal is always to give the discussion a level of real information and keep the discussion going. Silence is the end of every negotiation.

Bargaining is communication: listen and talk about the truth!

Even the best tools cannot guarantee success.

In theory, negotiation always leads to better results if both parties are open, structure the negotiation properly, use objective criteria, and try to find an ideal solution together.

But you can never force others to act a certain way or give up their extreme views and unreasonable expectations. You can just try.

You can open a discussion by outlining the issues as well as the process you want to follow in the negotiation: agreeing on how you want to negotiate and how you make decisions.

If the other party refuses to follow such a procedure, or if they use the classic tactics of goodwill, sympathy, aggression, or dirty tricks like “I would love to, but sir my master…” then say this openly. Make it clear that you will only accept a discussion based on an understanding of both parties' interests and focused on objective criteria.

In addition to the negotiation process, there are other factors that can affect the outcome of the negotiation. For example, whenever there's an imbalance of power between the two, like when you're discussing a raise with your boss, you can just point out why you think it would benefit both of you. and her when negotiating at eye level. But in the end, she will decide how to negotiate and you will have to accept it.

And remember, although most things in life are negotiable, there are things that exist that are still non-negotiable. For example, the best and most experienced negotiators cannot buy the White House.

Even the best tools cannot guarantee success.


The main message of the book is:

Don't treat conflict as a zero-sum game. Avoid the weak spot war and instead try to understand and address the underlying concerns of all parties. Regarding facts, remember that you are dealing with people, and stay open-minded when it comes to solutions.

Questions answered in this book:

Why is learning how to negotiate so valuable?

  • Learn how to negotiate well; Everything is based on negotiations.
  • Avoid guerrilla warfare. It costs a lot and brings very little profit.

Negotiate how?

  • Remember that you are negotiating with people.
  • Fight the problem, not the person you're negotiating with.
  • Before you look for a solution, understand the concerns of both parties.

What tools and tricks can be used in negotiation?

  • Outline options before looking for solutions.
  • Always find objective criteria for making decisions.
  • To negotiate well, you have to be well prepared.
  • Negotiation is communication: listen and talk about the truth!
  • Even the best tools cannot guarantee success.