Reading Assignment: Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton, Getting to Yes.


Getting to Yes presents an approach to conflict, interest-based bargaining, which offers a very workable model for dealing with virtually all tractable conflicts. The book starts with a description of most common approaches to negotiation, "soft" and "hard" bargaining strategies. It then describes the problems associated with these two approaches and explain why they often do not serve the interests of the people who use them. With this as background, the authors introduce their alternative-"principled negotiation" (also called "interest-based bargaining"). They then explain why they believe that their approach provides a superior middle ground between the hard and soft strategies.

The core of the book provides a detailed description of the four components of principled negotiation. The first step, "separating people from the problem," addresses the fact that people involved in disputes often become so angry at their opponents that interpersonal animosity rather than a rational problem-solving becomes the driving force behind their behavior. The next step develops a crucial distinction between "interests" and "positions." Here interests refer to a parties' underlying goals while positions refer to the actions that they advocate for achieving those goals. The authors believe that advancing interests is the real goal of negotiation and that there are a variety of possible strategies through which this may be accomplished. Their point is that people often become overly committed to one strategy or position and refuse to consider the possibility that another, compromise position might advance their interests more successfully. In other words, they want people to "focus on interests not positions."

The next step focuses upon "inventing options for mutual gain." Here, the focus is on the development of creative compromise options which advance the interests of all parties. These are the so called "win-win" solutions which represent the core of agreement-based approaches to conflict. The author's last step is to insist upon "objective criteria." Here they explore how basic principles of fairness can be incorporated into a negotiation process and how these principles can help determine how much of the collective "winnings" each party should receive.

The book also introduces the concept of "BATNA," which stands for "best alternative to a negotiated agreement." Fisher, Ury, and Patton argue that all negotiators must know their BATNA--in other words, know what their options are--in order to negotiate effectively. If you don't know your BATNA, you may settle for a result that is inferior to what you could have had without negotiation. Only by knowing your options will you know when you have, indeed, reached a "good deal."

The book then goes on to address questions about how well their approach to negotiation works in more difficult situations. Specifically, they discuss power differences between the parties, what to do when an opponent uses hardline tactics or dirty tricks, and what to do when an opponent simply won't "play." The book ends with an addendum offering answers to ten common questions that people ask about principled negotiation and Getting to Yes.

Writing Assigment (To be submitted for evaluation):


You are first asked to select a real world conflict problem which is likely to be amenable to successful interest-based bargaining. You should feel free to use any case that you wish as the foundation for this assignment (except for the examples used in the text). Examples of the kinds of cases that you might wish to address include the following:

Negotiations between a city open space department and the owner of a large farm which the city would like to see preserved as open space after the current, elderly owner's death.

Negotiations between the inventor of a new piece of bicycle equipment, a firm that specializes in manufacturing such equipment, and a marketing company.

Negotiations between neighborhood representatives and the city council concerning a program of neighborhood traffic improvements.

Family negotiations over where to go and what to do on their next vacation.

You are then asked to describe exactly how the principles of interest-based bargaining could be applied to the chosen case. You should imagine that you have been asked for advice by one of the parties who have then promised to circulate your recommendations to the other parties. It is important that you write clearly and succinctly producing a position paper of about 2500 words.

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