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Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury

I picked this book up by chance at the National Library and it is one of the best books that I've ever had the good fortune to stumble upon. This book has made a difference to my life, and came in extremely handy, especially over the past few weeks. The Slog Reviews: Off the charts. Anyone, everyone, should pick a copy up and start reading! As always, I'll set out below the parts I would like to share and, well, remember:

1. The game of negotiation takes place at 2 levels. At 1 level, negotiation addresses the substance, at another, it focuses on the procedure for dealing with the substance. Instead of positional bargaining (taking positions), an alternative would be principled negotiations. This can be boiled down to 4 basic points:
People: Separate the people from the problem. Be soft on the people, hard on the problem. Proceed independent of trust.
Interests: Focus on the interests, not positions. Avoid having a bottom line
Options: Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do - before trying to reach agreement, invent options for mutual gain.
Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard. Try to reach a result based on standards independent of will. Reason and be open to reason; Yield to principle, not pressure.

2. Failing to deal with others sensitively as human beings prone to human reactions can be disastrous for a negotiation. Always ask "Am I paying enough attention to the people problem?" It is useful to think in terms of 3 basic categories: perception, emotion and communication.
Perception - The other side's thinking is the problem. Put yourselves in their shoes. The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills that a negotiator can possess. You should withhold judgment for a while as you "try on" their views. Don't blame them for your problem - separate the symptoms from the person with whom you are talking. Discuss perceptions in a frank honest manner and look for opportunities to act inconsistently with their perception. Also, give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process - agreement becomes much easier if both parties feel ownership of the ideas. Get the other side involved early, ask their advice, give credit generously for ideas wherever possible, don't take credit for yourself. Make your proposals consistent with their values - if the substance can be phrased or conceptualized differently so that it seems a fair outcome, they will then accept it. Face-saving involves reconciling an agreement with principle and with the self-image of the negotiators.
Emotion - Talk with the people on the other side about their emotions. Talk about your own. Allow the other side to let off steam. Listen quietly without responding to their attacks and occasionally to ask the speaker to continue until he has spoken his last word. Use symbolic gesture - often an apology can defuse emotions effectively even when you do not acknowledge personal responsibility for the action or admit an intention to harm.
Communication - Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said. If you pay attention and interrupt occasionally to say "Did I understand correctly that you are saying that...?" Make it your task not to phrase a response but to understand them as they see themselves. As you repeat what you have understood them to have said, phrase it positively from their point of view, making the strength of their case clear. understanding is not agreeing. Speak to be understood - It is clearly unpersuasive to blame the other party for the problem, to engage in name-calling or to raise your voice. It is more persuasive to describe a problem in terms of its impact on you than in terms of what they did or why. Before making a significant statement, know what ou want to communicate or find out and know what purpose this information will serve.

3. Prevention works best - build a working relationship. The time to develop this is before the negotiations starts. Face the problem, not the people. A more effective way for the parties to think of themselves is as partners in a hardheaded side by side search for a fair agreement advantageous to each. To help the other side change from a face to face orientation to side by side, you might raise the issue with them explicitly "Look, we are both lawyers. Unless we try to satisfy your interests, we are hardly likely to reach an agreement that satisfies mine and vice versa. Let's look together at the problem of how to satisfy our collective interests." It helps to sit side by side on the same side of a table and to have in fron to you the contract or whatever else depicts the problem.

4. The basic problem in a negotiation lies not in conflicting positions, but in the conflict between each side's needs, desires, concerns and fears. To find out their interests is as important as figuring out yours - one basic technique is to put yourself in their shoes and ask "Why?" If you do, make clear you are asking not for justification of the position but for an understanding of the needs, hopes, fears or desires it serves. Ask "Why Not?" Identify the basic decision that those on the other side probably see you asking them for and then to ask yourself why they have not made that decision. If you are trying to change their minds, the starting point is to figure out where their minds are not. Realize each side will have multiple interests. Do not assume each person on the other side has the same interests. The most powerful interests are basic human needs - eg security, economic well-being, a sense of belonging, recognition and control over one's life. To sort out the interests of each side, it helps to write them down as they occur to you. This will not only help you remember them but also enable you to improve the quality of your assessment as you learn new info and place interests in their estimated order of importance. Be specific about your interests. Concrete details make your description credible but also add impact. If you want the other side to appreciate your interests, demonstrate you appreciate theirs. Put the problem before the answer. If you want someone to listen and understand your reasoning, give your interests and reasoning first and your conclusions or proposals later. Look forward, not back. You will satisfy your interests better if you talk about where you would like to go rather than about where you have come from. Be concrete but flexible - to convert your interests to concrete options - ask yourself, if tomorrow the other side agrees to go along with me, what do I now think I would like them to go along with?" Go into a meeting with 1 or more specific options that would meet your legitimate interests but with an open mind. An open mind is not an empty one. Give positive support to the human beings on the other side equal in strength and vigor with which you emphasize the problem.

5. Broaden the options available instead of narrowing the gap between positions, Do not engage in premature judgment, searching for the single answer, assumption of a fixed pie and thinking that solving their problem is their problem. To invent creative options, you will need to separate the act of inventing options from the act of judging them, broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer, search for mutual gains and invent ways of making their decisions easier. Change the scope of a proposed agreement -and ask how the subject matter may be enlarged so as to sweeten the pot and make agreement more attractive. Look for mutual gain and identify shared interests. Dovetail differing interests - invent several options all equally acceptable to you and ask the other side what they prefer. You want to know what is preferred and not acceptable. Take that option and work with it some more to come up with 2 or more variants - look for items which are low cost to you and high benefit to them. Few things facilitate a decision as much as precedent. Search for it. Look for a decision or statement that the other side may have made in a similar situation. Instead of threats, concentrate both on making them aware of the consequences they can expect if they do decide as you wish and on improving those consequences from their point of view. A final test of an option is to write it out in the form of a yesable proposition - try to draft a proposal to which their responding with the single word yes would be sufficient realistic and operational.

6. Insist on using objective criteria. Depending on the issue, you may wish to propose that an agreement be based on market value, precedent, scientific judgment, professional standards, efficiency, costs, what a court would decide, moral standards, equal treatment, tradition, reciprocity. Fair procedures - to produce an outcome independent of will, use fair standards for the substantive question or fair procedures for resolving the conflicting interests - eg dividing a cake between 2 children - one cuts and one chooses - neither can complain about an unfair division. A variation is for parties to negotiate what they think is a fair arrangement before they go on to decide their respective roles in it. Other basic means of settling differences - taking turns, drawing lots, letting someone else decide and so on. 3 basic points - 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. Ask What's your theory, agree first on principles - each standard the other side proposes becomes a lever you can then use to persuade them. In a given case there may be 2 standards which produce different results, but which both parties agree seem equally legitimate - in that case, splitting the difference is perfectly legitimate as the outcome is independent of the will of the parties. Pressure can take many forms - if the other side will not budge and will not advance a persuasive basis for their position, then there is no further negotiation. Take it or leave it. Before you leave it, look to see if you have overlooked some objective standard which makes their offer a fair one.

7. No method can guarantee success if all the leverage lies on the other side. In response to power, the most any method of negotiation can do is to meet 2 objectives: 1st to protect you against making any agreement you should reject and second, to help you make the most of the assets you do have so that any agreement you reach will satisfy your interests as well. Instead of having a bottom line, have a BATNA - Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. If you have not thought carefully about what you will do if you fail to reach an agreement, you are negotiating with your eyes closed. Although your BATNA is the true measure by which you should judge any proposed agreement, you should have a trip wire which should provide you with something in reserve. The better your BATNA, the greater your power. Spend time developing your BATNA.

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