Getting to Yes ~ Book of the Week

Getting to Yes, which is this week’s book of the week, by Roger Fisher and William Ury is a book by the Harvard Negotiation Project and originally published in 1981. I found this book by accident in a library where I worked a of couple years ago. The book is about negotiating. Negotiating like sales is a must have skill for leaders. Many of us when we think about negotiating we may jump to ideas like car sales or buying property. But really negotiations happen almost every day in all of our lives with a wide range of consequence of outcomes.

There are two types of negotiations that this book talks about; positional bargaining and principled negotiation. Positional bargaining tends to lock itself into positions, slows down the negotiation process, can cause strained relationships, and can result in not getting what you want.¹ Principled negotiation on the other hand is “hard on merits, soft on people”.²

Some people are really great at negotiating while others really struggle with it. Those of us who do struggle, probably have thought of negotiating in terms of positional bargaining. This means that we feel like our position needs to be “hard” or “soft”.² We’re either unwilling to move our position (hard) or we give in too much to get along with others (soft). Either way we either lose the trust of others  or we lose our shirt. Principled negotiation is a way for both parties to have skin in the game and therefore derive greater satisfaction from the process. Here’s four points of principled negotiation.

The Four Points of Principled Negotiation

  1. People: Separate the people from the problem.
  2. Interests: Focus on interests, not positions.
  3. Options: Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.
  4. Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard.³

1. Separate the People from the Problem 

“…before working on the substantive problem, the ‘people problem’ should be disentangled from it and dealt with it separately. Figuratively, if not literally, the participants should come to see themselves as working side by side,  attacking the problem, not each other.”³

2. Focus on Interests, not Positions

“Compromising between positions is not likely to produce an agreement which will effectively take care of the human needs that led people to adopt those positions.”³

3. Invent Options for Mutual Gain

“Trying to decide in the presence of an adversary narrows your vision. Having a lot at stake inhibits creativity. So does searching for the one right solution. You can offset these constraints by setting aside a designated time within which to think up a wide range of possible solutions that advance shared interests and creatively reconcile differing interests.”4

4. Insist on Objective Criteria

“…you can counter such a negotiator (stubborn) by insisting that his single say-so is not enough that the agreement must reflect some fair standard independent of the naked will of either side. This does not mean insisting that the terms be based on the standard you select, but only that some fair standard such as market value, expert opinion, custom or law determine the outcome.”4

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Sarah Jackson

Vigilant Poster Girl

Every week I talk about a book that we’re reading on leadership and self-development. You can follow along by going to the Book of the Week page at the top. And order a book (either kindle, audible, or paperback) by clicking on the photo of that book. When you do that, it also helps fund this site. 


  1. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury pg 5 – 9
  2. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury pg xii
  3. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury pg 11
  4. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury pg 12

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