Posted on Mar 6, 2020

Getting to Yes Summary

Chapters, PDF & Review of Roger Fisher & William Ury’s Book

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Authors: Roger Fisher and William Ury

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People listen better if they feel that you have understood them. They tend to think that those who understand them are intelligent and sympathetic people whose own opinions may be worth listening to. So if you want the other side to appreciate your interests, begin by demonstrating that you appreciate theirs.


Learn to negotiate well, everything is based on negotiations.

  • don’t argue over positions. some reasons why:
    • get locked into a stance when could be good outcomes that don’t fit stance
    • inefficient – creates incentives to stall, go back and forth
    • endangers ongoing relationships
  • what to do instead — principled negotiation:
    • people – separate people from the problem
    • interests – focus on interests, not positions
    • options – generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do (invent options for mutual gain)
    • criteria – insist that the result be based on some objective standard


Avoid trench warfare. It costs a lot and brings very little in return.

Keep in mind that you are negotiating with people

  • put yourself in their shoes
  • don’t deduce their intentions
  • don’t blame them for your problem (even if it is their fault). Instead, discuss how you can solve the problem together
  • discuss each other’s perceptions
  • give a stake in outcome by making sure they participate in process of developing an agreement
  • make emotions explicit and acknowledge them as legitimate
  • use symbolic gestures – shaking hands, eating together etc
  • listen actively – show you understand by saying back what they have told you
  • speak to be understood
  • speak about yourself, not them
  • speak for a purpose – what will your comment/question do or will let you find out?
  • build a working relationship


Fight the problem, not the person you are negotiating with:  view each other side-by-side.

Before you search for solutions, understand both parties’ underlying interests.

  • look for shared interests
  • how to identify interests:
    • ask why / why not
    • think through their choices from their pov
    • make a list of possible interests
  • realize that each side has multiple interests (different people can take the same position for different reasons)
  • most powerful interests are basic human needs such as security or recognition
  • make your interests come alive with specifics
  • acknowledge their interests
  • put the problem before your answer (why before how)
  • be concrete but flexible


Outline options before you search a solution.

  • obstacles to inventing options:
    • premature judgment
    • searching for a single answer
    • assuming fixed-sum game (one’s benefit means other’s loss)
    • thinking that solving their problem is their problem
    • separate inventing from deciding
  • consider brainstorming with the other side
  • examine problem through eyes of different experts
  • think about ways you could change the strength (e.g. it can’t agree on who should pay for damaged shipment, may be able to agree to take the issue to an arbitrator) or scope (set plan for a trial period at first) of proposed solutions
  • use differences in interests
  • draft agreements as you go as an aid to thinking


Find objective criteria to base your decision on:

  • some objective criterion:
    • market value
    • precedent
    • scientific judgment
    • professional standards
    • efficiency
    • costs
    • what a court would decide (?)
    • moral standards
    • equal treatment
    • tradition
    • reciprocity
  • objective criteria should be independent of each side’s will
  • fair procedures, e.g. one side divides and other selects, drawing lots, etc


To negotiate well, you have to be well-prepared.

Even the best tools can’t always guarantee success

  • know and develop your batna – best alternative to a negotiated agreement
  • consider the other side’s batna
  • don’t attack their position, look behind it
  • don’t defend your ideas, invite criticism and advice
  • ask questions and pause — be comfortable with silence
  • consider the one-text procedure – revise until final version where the answer can be just yes or no, probably with help of a third party
  • when the other side seems to be using a tricky tactic:
  • recognize the tactic
  • bring it up explicitly
  • question tactic’s legitimacy and desirability — negotiate over it
  • make sure you know how much authority to compromise the person you are dealing with has
  • can build compliance procedures into an agreement
  • if they refuse to negotiate, try to find out why directly or through 3rd parties. suggest options to them
  • dealing with “hardhearted partner” – get person you’re talking with’s agreement (probably in writing) and then discuss with the partner yourself
  • look for objective ways to set deadlines (e.g. before shareholder’s meeting

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