Conflict Research Consortium BOOK SUMMARY

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In


Roger Fisher and William Ury, Bruce Patton (ed)


Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Roger Fisher and William Ury, Bruce Patton (ed), (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1981).

This book summary written by: Conflict Research Consortium Staff.

The first section is helpful in beginning the process of consensus building. Fisher and Ury advocate focusing on the problem and not the positions of participants to the dispute. They assert that arguing over position is roughly equivalent to posturing and not only makes effective communication and negotiation impossible, but also may damage the ongoing relationship between the participants. The greater the number of participants the worse this problem becomes. The authors offer a method for first framing the problem to avoid such posturing and to redirect the participants attention to the problem itself.

The second section shows dispute participants how to form a productive, problem solving group. The first step in this method is to separate the problem from the participants. They assert that this is most profitably done by recognizing four core areas of concern. First, allowances must be made for perceptions; one's own about one's self, others and the problem and other's symmetrical perceptions. Second, latent and unexpressed emotions as well as demonstrated emotions must be acknowledged and placed within the appropriate context. Communication as an active two-way process is asserted to be a third core area. Finally, emphasis is placed on the benefits of preventing roadblocks to negotiation by building a working relationship and by confronting the problem and not the participants.

Fisher and Ury propose that once the problem of the individual positions held by the participants (which are intertwined with the problem) are disentangled, the focus on the problem then becomes a focus on the interests, both conflicting and compatible, which the participants have. These interests define the problem. The authors offer ways to identify these interests and, once identified, ways to talk about them.

With interests identified, the authors propose that the process move to outlining the options available for solution to the problem. They encourage and suggest the invention of these options in that the options are not set, but arrived at by the participants. They advise that these options be based upon the shared interests of the participants and be designed for mutual gain. Getting to Yes, asserts that principled negotiations produce the best agreements in the most amicable and efficient way. The authors offer the basis of principled negotiation and a method for developing same.

The final section is useful for participants negotiating with more powerful parties or difficult negotiators. The authors offer suggestions for negotiating between parties with disparate power by developing the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). They offer suggestions on negotiating with reluctant or non-participating participants as well as negotiating with participants who employ ?dirty tricks'. Getting to Yes offers a methodological approach to negotiations and consensus building which, when followed, is asserted to facilitate a mutually beneficial agreement which is negotiated in an efficient, principled way while maintaining a working relationship with the participants.