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Mastering Principled Negotiation: Leadership Insights from 'Getting to Yes' by Fisher and Ury


Getting to Yes Book Cover

Authors: Roger Fisher and William Ury

Bibliography: Fisher, R. and Ury, W., 1991. _Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In; Second Edition_. Penguin Group US.

The Big Idea

Fisher and Ury suggest a method called 'principled negotiation' based on the psychology of negotiation and by finding acceptable solutions through understanding which needs are fixed and which are flexible to negotiators. Principled negotiation is based on five propositions:

  1. Separate the people from the problem

  2. Focus on interests, not on positions

  3. Invent options for mutual gain

  4. Insist on using objective criteria

  5. Know your Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) – have a backup plan

What I took away from this book

This book is about framing and finding ways to engage people effectively. Think of it as addressing issues and managing change but focusing on objective criteria and interests, not positions. Understand what people need and not associate people with it.


Key leadership lessons from the book

  1. Separate people from the problem: Fisher and Ury suggest that everyone has two different kinds of interests: substantive interests and interests relating to interpersonal relationships. Problems occur when the relationship becomes entwined with the problem being addressed. This 'people problem' is seen as coming from one or more of the three basic categories of (a) Perception, (b) Emotion, or (c) Communication.

  2. First, invent options and then decide which is the best mutual course of action after a joint brainstorming session between the parties. Most disputes tend to have multiple components, which can be addressed by defining the problem, analysing the causes into categories, considering possible strategies using broad thinking to resolve the issues and looking at what specific steps could be taken.

  3. Fisher and Ury highlight three essential points to remember. 1) Frame each issue as a mutual search for objective criteria; 2) be reasonable and open to reason when standards should be used and how they should be applied; 3) never bend to pressure, only to principle.

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