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Getting to YES Summary

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving is a book written by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

This summary was originally written by Tanya Glaser, member of Conflict Research Consortium

In Getting to yes, the authors Fisher and Ury describe the four principles at the base effective negotiations. They also present the three main obstacles to negotiation and examine various ways to overcome these obstacles.

You might also be interested in reading Never split the difference summary by Chris Voss, another amazing book on negotiation.


Getting to yes Chapter 1- Don’t bargain over positions

According to Fisher and Ury, a good negotiation is a wise and effective agreement that improves relations between the parties.

They are fair, lasting agreements that meet the needs of the parties and the interests of everyone.

The authors aim to propose a method to reach similar agreements.

Most of the time, the negotiations are about positions in which each party has a fixed position on the issue. The parties then enter into a series of negotiations to try agreeing on a common position.

The typical example of these position negotiations is the haggling over a price.

For Fisher and Ury, position bargaining generally does not result in good agreements.

They are a little bit of a means to an end, ineffective to reach an agreement, and when an agreement is reached, it often does not hold up taking into account the interests of the parties.

Negotiation of positions encourages obstinacy and this fact tends to damage the relationship between the parties.

Principled negotiation or interest-based negotiation that provides mutual benefit is a better method of achieving good agreements.

The method and the four principles

In contrast to positional bargaining, the principled negotiation method of focusing on basic interests, mutually satisfying options and fair standards typically results in a wise agreement.

Authors Fisher and Ury propose four principles for principled negotiations.

1) Separate the People from the Problem

2) Focus on Interests, Not Positions

3) Invent Options for Mutual Gain

4) Insist on Using Objective Criteria

These principles must be respected at every stage of the negotiation.

In general, the negotiation begins with the analysis of the situation or problem, the interests or the perceptions of other parties and existing solutions.

The next step is to Plan different methods of response to this situation and to other parties. Finally, the different parties examine the problem and try to find a solution, acceptable to all.


getting to yes summary



Getting to yes Chapter 2- Separate the People from the Problem

The first principle presented by Fisher and Ury in getting to yes is that of the separation of persons and disputes. People too often tend to become personally involved in the process or in the problem and to defend personal positions.

They have therefore very often tended to react to these problems and the positions of others as personal attacks. Thus, dealing separately with personal issues and the dispute allows for the parties to address substantive issues without jeopardizing their relationship.

This also makes it possible to see the problem more clearly in all its substance.

Three problems associated with people

For the authors, there are actually three types of problems associated with people.

Difference in perceptions

The first relates to differences in perceptions between the parties. Since the most conflicts arise from different interpretations of the facts, it is essential that both parties have a good understanding of each other’s point of view. To do so, they must try to put themselves in the other’s shoes. They cannot simply assume that the worst that can happen to them is what the other party can cause them. One should not blame the other party for the problem in question. Each of the parties must strive to make proposals that are attractive to the other party. The more parties will be involved in this process, the more they will have an interest in seeing it resolved in a favorable way.


Affectivity is the second source of problems associated with people. Negotiation can be a very frustrating process as individuals react by letting their fears or anger when they feel their interests are threatened. The most important thing to do in terms of affectivity is to accept these feelings and try to deal with them and really understand the source.

The parties must recognize that feelings are present even if they do not consider them to be reasonable. Disregarding feelings of the other or consider them unreasonable may lead to an even more emotionally tense situation.

Each of the parties shall allow the other person to give free rein to his or her emotions. The parties should not have to react in an emotional way in emotionally charged situations. Symbolic gestures such as an apology or showing sympathy will allow neutralizing strong emotions.


Communication is the third source of problems associated with people.

It is possible that the negotiators are not really talking to each other but that everything they say, they say it for the gallery. So each party rather than listen to the point of view of the other is already preparing his answer.

And even in cases where the parties are talking to each other and are really listening to each other, communication errors may occur.

To avoid this, the parties must actively listen to their interlocutors. Listeners should pay full attention to the person speaking. Occasionally, they may even summarize the main points defended by the speaker in order to verify their understanding.

It is important to remember that understanding the other person’s point of view does not necessarily mean accepting it or agreeing.

Likewise, speakers should speak from the perspective of the people they are speaking to.

They must not lose sight of the message they are trying to communicate. Each party must avoid blaming or attacking the other party; instead, they must speak for themselves. Very often the best way to solve problems associated with people is to prevent them from happening.

These types of problems are less likely to occur if the parties have a good relationship with each other and consider themselves to be partners in the negotiation rather than adversaries.


getting to yes communication


Getting to yes Chapter 3- Focus on interests, not positions

In order to find a sensible solution and therefore a good agreement, it is necessary to reconcile interests of the parts, not the positions.

As Fisher and Ury explain: “Having a position is the result of a decision. Interests are the things that make you decide. »

Defining a problem in terms of positions implies that at least one part will be a loser. On the other hand, when the problem is defined by taking into account the underlying interests of the parties, it is very often possible to find a solution that satisfies the parties’ interests.

The first thing is to identify the interests of the parties in the face of the problems in question. To do this, you can ask each person what the reasons for a position are and try to determine why a party has taken a particular position rather than another.

In general, each party has several interests that justify the position taken. These interests may be slightly different even among members.

Nevertheless there are always common interests or needs such as the need to live in security and economic well-being.

Getting to yes Chapter 4 – Invent options for mutual gain

Discuss together

Once the parties have identified their interests, they should discuss them together.

If a party wishes the other party to take its interests into consideration it must be able to do so. Explain in a very clear manner.

The other party will be more motivated to take these interests under consideration if the first party shows that it is mindful of the interests of the second part.

All discussions should focus on the desired solution instead of focusing on events of the past.

The parties must be able to focus on their interests while remaining open to different proposals and positions.

Imagine the solutions

Fisher and Ury identified four barriers to imagining creative ways to solve the problem.

Parties choose a solution too early and therefore do not consider other alternatives.

The parties tend to limit the possible options to try to find a unique solution.

Parties tend to define the problem in terms of a win-lose situation, based on the hypothesis that one side will win and the other will lose.  Or again, one party may decide that it is up to the other to propose a solution to the problem.

Four techniques for overcoming these obstacles

First of all, it is important to separate the phase of inventing solutions from that of evaluation.

The parties must meet together in an informal atmosphere to exchange views and to discuss issues and to brainstorming to find all possible solutions to the problem. The craziest and most creative solutions are encouraged.

Brainstorming sessions can be more creative and productive if parties are invited to alternate between four types of mental activities: problem statement, problem analysis, and problem, the widening of the scope of possibilities and the possibility of specific actions.

The parties may suggest partial solutions to the problem. It is only once that several proposals will have been made that the group can begin to address them.

The evaluation should begin with the review of the most relevant proposal. The parties also have the opportunity to refine and improve the proposals at that time.

Participants will avoid falling into this win-lose mentality if they arrive to focus on shared interests. Where interests differ, the parties should look for options to make the differences more compatible, or even complementary.

A secret

The secret to reconciling divergent interests is to look for items that are inexpensive for you and that bring a lot of value to the other party, and vice versa”.

Each party shall endeavor to make proposals that are attractive to the other party so that the other party can give its agreement easily.

For this, it is important to identify the people who are the decision-makers because they are the ones to whom you will address the proposals. It is easier to agree on proposals when they are legitimate or when they have precedents. Threats are generally less effective in reaching agreements that offer mutual benefit.


the art of negotiation


Getting to yes Chapter 5 – Insist on using objective criteria

When the interests of the parties are directly opposed, they must have recourse to objective criteria to resolve their differences. Allowing these differences will lead to the destruction of the relationship; it is a battle of wills; it is a completely inefficient method that will not produce good chords. On the other hand, decisions based on reasonable standards will facilitate agreements between the parties, and will further protect the good relationships that bind them together.

The first thing to do is to develop objective criteria. This can be done by using several criteria.

The parties must agree on the best criteria to use depending on the situation. The criteria should be objective, legitimate and practical. Scientific discoveries, standards or legal precedents may be considered to be professional or sources of objective criteria.

To determine their objectivity, simply ask the both parties if they agree to abide by it. Rather than agreeing on criteria substance, the parties can create a fair procedure to resolve their differences.

For example, children may decide to cut a cake into equal parts, asking one to cut the cake and the other to choose first.

Negotiating with objective criteria

When using objective criteria, there are three elements to consider.

Having identified some objective criteria and procedures, how do you go about discussing them with the other side? There are three basic points to remember:

  1. Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria.
  2. Reason and be open to reason as to which standards are most appropriate and how they should be applied.
  3. Never yield to pressure, only to principle.

First, the search for a solution must represent a shared effort by parties trying to find objective criteria. Ask questions to find out what that motivates the suggestions made by the other party. Use the other party’s reasoning part to support your own position. This is a very effective way to negotiate.

Second, the parties must keep an open mind. They must be reasonable and agree to reconsider their position when valid reasons for doing so are presented.

Third, negotiators must, of course, be reasonable, but they must not be must never give in to pressure, threats or bribes.

When the other party absolutely refuses to be reasonable, the first party must get the discussion across from a search for objective criteria to a search for procedural criteria. What happens when the opposing party is obviously more powerful?

No method of negotiation can make differences disappear completely. However, Fisher and Ury present different ways of protecting the party, the weakest of a bad agreement and to allow him to make the most of his assets.


Getting to yes Chapter 6 – What if they are more powerful? (Develop your BATNA—Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)

Minimum base or bottom line

Very often negotiators will determine a “bottom line” in order to protect themselves against bad chords.  This bottom line represents what a party is considered to be the worst acceptable outcome.

Negotiators commonly try to protect themselves against such an outcome by establishing in advance the worst acceptable outcome—their “bottom line.”

If you are buying for example, a bottom line is the highest price you would pay. If you are selling, a bottom line is the lowest amount you would accept.

Negotiators decide before entering into negotiations and reject any proposals that fall below this bottom line.

Fisher and Ury are not in favor of this minimal base concept. Since the minimum base is set before discussions begin, the figure determined may be arbitrary and unrealistic. Furthermore, adopting a bottom line can limit creative thinking when proposing options.

Develop a BATNA

The weaker party should focus on how to develop his or her BATNA. (Best alternative to a negotiated agreement” (BATNA)

The authors point out that “the reason for negotiating is to achieve a result that is superior to what you would have achieved without negotiations”.

The weaker party must therefore reject any agreement that would mean it would end up with a “bad deal”, in a situation worse than the BATNA.

If a party does not clearly know if she doesn’t know what her BATNA is, she risks negotiating blindly.

The BATNA is an essential concept to make the most of existing assets. The power of a party in a negotiation is all the greater as it can withdraw from the negotiation.

Thus the party with the best BATNA is the strongest party in the negotiation.

Usually the weaker party can, through unilateral action, find better alternatives to negotiation.

To do so, it must identify opportunities to seize and take action to make the most of these opportunities. The most important part will better understand the context in which the negotiations are taking place if it is able to evaluate the BATNA of the other party.

Fisher and Ury conclude by saying: “developing your BATNA not only allows you to know what the minimum acceptable, but probably also to raise this minimum. »

Getting to yes Chapter 7 – What if they won’t play? (Use negotiation jujitsu)

Sometimes the opposing party refuses to change its position and throws personal attacks; it seeks only to maximize its profits and by general, refuses to take part in the negotiations.

Fisher and Ury describe three approaches when the opposing party remains camped on its position.

The first approach is simply to continue to use the same tactics and to pursue the same negotiations. In the authors’ opinion, this approach is highly contagious.

Second, the negotiating party may use “jujitsu negotiation” to invite the opposing party to continue to negotiate. For this method to succeed, it is necessary to absolutely avoid responding to the solution proposed by the opposing party. When the opposing party attacks, the negotiating party does not counterattack but is trying to dodge the attack and have it carried over to the problem. Negotiators on positions generally attack by reaffirming their position or attacking ideas and positions to the individuals of the opposing party. When they reaffirm their position, ask them what are the reasons for the position taken. When they attack ideas from the opposing party, accept these criticisms as constructive and invite them to make more comments and to give you advice. Personal attacks need to be reworded to address the issues in question.

Generally the negotiating party can ask questions and use strategic silences to ensure that the negotiating opposing party reveals itself.

Use the one-text procedure

If the opposing party remains completely on its positions, you can use the one-text procedure. This procedure involves a third party.

This third party must question each of the parties separately to determine their underlying interests. It will then list all interests expressed and ask each party to make comments and criticisms about this list.

Taking into account these comments, she will prepare a proposal that will be provided to the parties for their comments, changes to the text and returns for further comments.

This procedure may continue until the third party considers that no further improvements can be achieved.

At that time, the parties must decide whether to accept the improved proposal or to abandon the negotiations.


the art of the deal


Getting to yes Chapter 8 – What if they use dirty tricks? (Taming the hard bargainer)

Sometimes the parties may resort to unfair means, contrary to the interests of the parties, using unethical or simply disgusting tactics to try to gain an advantage in the negotiation.

These means can range from the routine of the nice policeman and the policeman to make the opposing party sit on an uncomfortable seat and to make the other side pass from media-sensitive information.

The best way to fight against these unfair means is to put them openly on the negotiating table and begin a process of reasoned negotiation procedure to set the basic rules of negotiation.

Fisher and Ury identify some commonly used unfair tactics:

Truncating the facts

The Parties may resort to deliberate deception by truncating the facts, by lying about who they are and what they intend to do.

The best protection in this case is to verify the truthfulness of the opposing party’s statements. For this purpose you can ask for additional explanations or to present their position and their complaints in writing.

It is essential, however, that you are not perceived to be accusing the other party of being a liar, which would constitute a personal attack.

Psychological warfare

Another commonly used tactic is psychological warfare. These tactics are designed to make you feel uncomfortable, so that you will have a subconscious desire to end the negotiation as soon as possible.

When the disloyal party uses a stressful environment, the party engaged in the negotiation should identify this problem and suggest a more positive and comfortable environment.

Very subtle personal attacks can be neutralized simply by identifying them. Bringing them to the attention of the opponent who uses this kind of attack will very often put an end to it. Threats are a weapon of psychological pressure. Negotiators engaged in interest-based negotiations should ignore this kind of pressure or to make the case for such threats in the current proceedings.

Positional pressure tactics

This kind of bargaining tactic is designed to structure the situation so that only one side can effectively make concessions.

The disloyal party may refuse to negotiate; it uses its entry in the negotiations as assets in its favor. It can also begin negotiations by making extreme demands.

The negotiator must be able to identify this tactic and defend its own interests by refusing to negotiate.

The other party may also increase the level of its other demands each time it makes a concession.

This is another tactic that the negotiator must identify and present to participants in order to give them the opportunity to withdraw from the negotiations if they wish to do so.

Occasionally irrevocably commit to specific positions or present a clear picture of the take it or leave it. In this case, the party wishing to negotiate may refuse to consider such proposals as commitments or final offers; and treat them like any other proposal or expressed interest. You must insist that all proposals be evaluated on their merits and not on the basis of not hesitate to denounce unfair tactics 

You might also be interested in reading Never split the difference summary by Chris Voss, another amazing book on negotiation.


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