Getting to Yes – Roger Fisher [Book Summary]

by Nick

Negotiation Skills Are the Foundation of Business

Roger Fisher states that a few decades ago, the world was built on a hierarchy: in the family, the father made decisions, and at work, everyone followed the path chosen by the director of the company.

Today, authoritarian structures are rare. Hierarchies have almost become obsolete, information has become more accessible, and many people participate in decision-making. Now it’s much more important to talk with people: politicians communicate with voters, and companies encourage employees to participate in decision-making. Even family relationships are becoming democratic.

Example. In the Google era, parents can no longer tell their child: “Don’t do this, it’s harmful,” because he can go online, find evidence and challenge their point of view.

Through negotiations, you can come to an agreement in any field. A discussion with friends about choosing a movie is different from negotiating prices with suppliers or negotiating an international arms embargo, but in many ways all the negotiations are similar.

Every day of your life involves any kind of negotiation. Having received the necessary skills, you will significantly improve the results of any negotiations.

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Avoid Positional Warfare

Positional warfare is a situation in which both sides take a position, violently uphold it and make concessions in extreme cases. In such a situation, the solution found is not the result of negotiations. Either the most stubborn side wins, or a compromise is found that more or less satisfies both sides.

The problem with such conflicts is that both sides are fixated on their original positions. They want to “win”, but not find a mutually beneficial solution together. Open confrontation takes a lot of time and effort. The parties may take uncompromising positions, fearing that they will be forced to make concessions. In fact, this leads only to a long and painful debate.

Positional warfare complicates the resolution of the conflict and even destroys relations between the parties. It ends with non-optimal solutions (at best), spends a lot of time and effort, and also harms business relations.

Remember That You Are Negotiating With a Person

It is wrong to consider negotiations as a dialogue between absolutely rational individuals. There is no one opinion in the negotiations: at least there are two subjective points of view. Parties are endowed with individual characteristics, experiences, values ​​, and emotions.

The parties will look at things differently and interpret “facts” in their own way. Sometimes two people talk about completely different things without realizing it.

People can react differently to one situation, especially to a stressful one. A lengthy, intense discussion often makes a person aggressive, which can annoy another and cause them to defend themselves. Then further discussion becomes meaningless.

In negotiations, a combination of different opinions and strong emotions is the strongest obstacle to the search for a mutually beneficial solution. Reasonable arguments will not help here.

Negotiations take place at two different levels: actual arguments and emotional perceptions. It is impossible to completely separate these levels. Remember that in addition to facts, there is an interpersonal level, which is the source of many conflicts or misunderstandings.

Suppress emotions like anger or fear. Try to put yourself in the place of another and consider not only the facts but also the feelings of people.

Your Enemy is a Problem, Not an Interlocutor

The purpose of the negotiations is the search for a long-term mutually beneficial solution, and not “victory” of one of the parties. Separate discussion from interpersonal relationships. To successfully negotiate, keep up with the facts.

Both sides should approach the problem from a rational point of view, not an emotional one. See each other as partners, not enemies.

You need to look at the topic of conversation from a neutral point of view. Sometimes it’s useful to sit on one side of the table – this way the problem will be perceived not as a confrontation, but as a discussed issue that can only be solved together.

Be impartial and stick to the facts. Never turn to personalities and do not blame the other person for the unreasonableness, no matter how absurd your position may seem, so as not to create a distance that will make the interlocutor forget about the facts and react on a purely emotional level.

Example. A divorced couple should not argue about who is to blame for a failed marriage. They need to discuss the future of children.

Before Looking for a Solution, You Should Understand the Interests of Both Parties.

Often the positions of the two sides seem incompatible.

Example. The couple’s vacation plans: “I want to go to sea” versus “I want to go to the Alps”.

Digging deeper, you will find new solutions that arise without the need to compromise. If the husband wants to go swimming, and the wife goes skiing, they can spend their vacation on a mountain lake.

The position in the negotiations is often due to several interests. In this example, different positions are the result of different expectations from the rest. To find a solution, try to figure out all your preferences. By identifying the differences, it will be easier for you to prioritize and see if painless concessions are possible. What is the ultimate goal? What do you agree with each other? What are the differences between your positions? Where did these differences come from?

The basic needs of people for recognition, management, security, and love are often the main drivers.

Example. If you don’t know what drives another person, ask: “Why do you want to go to the Alps?” Or “Why do you mind?”

At the same time, you must understand what drives you. Openly express your desires before submitting proposals. Only when the interests of both parties are clear can a mutually beneficial solution be found.

List options before looking for solutions.

Negotiators usually clearly see the desired result: often they take draft contracts with them, hoping to convince the other person to agree with them. Such “decisions” are doomed to failure because they are based on only one position.

Instead of one-sided proposals, be open to discuss all possible solutions and make only suitable for both parties.

Example. Someone asks you: “Who do you think will win the Nobel Prize in literature next year?” Most likely, you will not answer immediately. Having compiled a list of candidates and thinking, you select one.

Similarly, negotiations should be sought.

Negotiations consist of two stages: first, you indicate possible solutions, then you begin to agree. Start by neutralizing extreme positions, study various scenarios and consider details. Get creative: sketch, brainstorm and ask for expert advice. Try to find a way out of the most uncompromising positions. So you will have many possible solutions, and if you move on to the second phase of the discussion, some of them will be acceptable to both parties.

Always Base Your Selection on Objective Criteria

Even surprising your partner with a fully worded proposal, you will not facilitate negotiations. He is unlikely to agree and respond with either defense or assault. First, find the right criteria on which to base your decision. The criteria should be unambiguous and objective, excluding misinterpretation.

Example. The fair price of a home is not just the expected price of the seller or buyer. It should be based on the average price per square meter, the condition of the building and the prices of similar houses in the area. These criteria are objective and verifiable.

During the negotiations, both parties should indicate their criteria for evaluating the decision. The criteria should not be the same, but objective and understandable.

Never give in to pressure. If someone puts an ultimatum: “This is my last sentence,” ask what criteria it is based on: “Why do you think this is a fair price?” Try to find objective criteria to base your decision.

If it is impossible to find the right criteria, make sure at least that the decision-making process is fair. This is how to share cookies in kindergarten according to the “I share, you choose” method: the first child shares cookies, but it is better to be honest since the second child is the first to choose the piece he likes.

To Negotiate Well, You Need to Prepare for Them

Never go to negotiations unprepared. Collect as many facts as possible and study them carefully. Learn all about the participants and the specific context of the negotiations. What drives another person? What are his interests and goals? Does he make a decision on his own or taking into account the interests of the boss, partner or spouse? Are there any personal, political, or religious issues to be aware of?

The more you know, the better you understand the other person and the higher the likelihood of finding a constructive solution. The less you know, the sooner you will begin to argue about issues based on prejudice, speculation, and emotion.

Do not underestimate the negotiation environment. It is necessary to decide in advance where the negotiations will take place: in your office, at home, in neutral territory; how to conduct them: by phone, in person or in a group; what does the duration of negotiations mean for opponents; whether deadline pressure will help or hurt negotiations.

Take time to study the details and prepare to create a comfortable environment for both parties. This will greatly increase the chances of a constructive discussion.

Negotiations Are Communication!

Most conflicts arise due to lack of communication. Misunderstandings and knowledge gaps lead to disputes, and active communication helps to avoid these problems. Even in a conflict, your communication should be positive and focused on finding a solution. Continue the discussion and do not interrupt it, focusing on any argument.

Often we hear only what we want. Listen to what a person says and show him this: “If I understand you correctly, you think …”. So you immediately eliminate misunderstandings.

Once you understand the position of another person, identify your own interests. Do not talk about what you consider to be mistakes and errors in the position of the interlocutor, but share your expectations and hopes.

Do not react emotionally, but, if necessary, let the other person pour out their anger or emotions. In such cases, explain the behavior.

Example. “I understand why you are angry, and I myself was disappointed because …”

The task is to bring the discussion to the level of facts and continue it. Silence means the end of any negotiations.

Even the Best Methods Do Not Always Guarantee Success.

In theory, negotiations lead to better results if both sides are open, use objective criteria and seek to find a solution together. But you can never force a person to act in a certain way or abandon their position. You can only try to do it.

Begin the discussion by identifying the problem and the negotiation process: agree on how the discussion will go and how you will make the decision. If the other person does not support you in this or uses dishonest methods (classic – “good cop, bad cop” or cunning – “I would love to, but my boss …”), openly report this. Make it clear that you will participate in a discussion based on an understanding of the interests of both parties and focused on objective criteria.

When there is an imbalance of power between the two sides (for example, a discussion of salary increases with superiors), you can only note why you think it will be beneficial to both. But it is the bosses who decide how the negotiations go, and you have to accept it.

Remember that not everything in life can be solved through negotiations.


Do not consider conflicts as a game, the winner of which comes out alone. Avoid positional warfare and try to understand and consider the interests of the parties. Stick to the facts. Remember that you are dealing with people and be fair when it comes to a decision.

Why is it important to learn to negotiate? Negotiations are the foundation of the business. Avoid positional warfare.

What does it mean to negotiate? Remember that you are negotiating with a person. Your enemy is a problem, not an interlocutor. Before looking for solutions, you should understand the interests of both parties.

What methods and techniques can I use? List your options before you start looking for a solution. Always base your selection on objective criteria. Get ready for negotiations in advance. Negotiations are communication. Even the best methods do not always guarantee success.

Why You Should Read “Getting to Yes”

  • To master negotiating skills
  • To be able to persuade people
  • To learn how to control the conversation flow

This book is available as:

AudiobookeBook | Print