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On the th page of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving Inat the start of the “In Conclusion” section, the following sentence appears: The whole premise of such titles is that you know very little, and whatever you think you know is dead wrong. Otherwise, why would you buy the book or its inevitable sequel? Volumes specifically devoted to negotiating form a growing subset of the sprawling advice category, with literally dozens of examples ranging from the memoirs of celebrated negotiators to academic explorations thick with charts and graphs.

Software programs offer computerized training, and business school negotiating courses abound. Highly specialized newsletters publish negotiating advice, and so does the Harvard Business Review.

Nobody has a Gross Negotiation Product figure that totals up the aggregate costs of all this instruction and tip-giving, but as John Baker, editor of The Negotiator Magazineobserves, “There are a lot of people who are making their living that way.

Getting to Yes is not exactly the founding text of negotiation studies, but it was largely responsible for converting the field from rarified specialty to fodder for a pop audience.

Inwhen it was first published, books about negotiating were rare. You Can Negotiate Anythinga chatty and amusing book by consultant and “world’s best negotiator” Herb Cohen, had been published just months earlier, becoming a bestseller. The Art Science of Negotiationa scholarly work by Harvard Business School professor Howard Raiffa that applied game- and decision-theory ideas to business, came out the following year. Getting to Yes has sold around 3.

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The current edition is substantially the same book that was published 22 years ago, and the explosion of titles is not evidence of an avalanche of new developments in negotiation theory. It is evidence, as Getting to Yes co-author Bruce Patton puts it, that “people smelled a market.

The sheer number of offerings suggests a remarkable variety of approaches to the subject: Can there really be that much to say about negotiating? Even the most ferocious and the most laid-back authors actually share a good deal more common ground than either would care to admit. But each is useful in its way, and you’ll find many of the handiest insights below. Like most every other source of negotiation advice, Getting to Yes begins by saying that however much you think negotiation is part of your life, you’re underestimating.

Richard Shell ups the ante in the opening to Bargaining for Advantage. Many of the authors suggest that you negotiate with your children or your spouse all the time.


Patton and Getting to Yes ‘s principal authors, Roger Fisher and William Ury, had earlier collaborated on a book for international mediators, which is of course a rather small audience. The idea of Getting to Yes was to translate their thinking about multilateral peace agreements into lessons that might be applied to more quotidian forms of negotiation.

The new audience would be all of those who have effeective figured they were getting screwed when they tried to argue for a raise, dicker with cantankerous suppliers, sell a used car, or buy a new house.

Getting to Yes offers a sort of archetype of what we imagine “negotiation” means: Both sides seem to have picked a number out of thin air with the hope of arriving at the most advantageous price at the end of a series of concessions.

One way or another, all the experts advise that you leave behind simple-minded dickering based on gamesmanship and emotion and attain a new mindset, an almost Zen-like state of rationality. In Getting to Yesthe great leap is to focus not on your adversary and his or her position, but rather to negotiate “on the merits. The emphasis is on seeing negotiation not as a zero-sum game, but as something that might be resolved by discovering a “creative solution” that simple haggling obscures.


This is illuminated by the Negotiafing of the Orange: Two parties each want an orange and agree finally to split it in half.

But it turns out that one side simply wanted the juice, and the other side wanted the rind. If only they had worked together to solve the problem, each side could kartass gotten what it wanted. The Parable of the Orange pops up a lot.

What the experts make of it varies a bit, but a point that pretty much everyone makes is that the outcome of most negotiations has less to do with how vehemently you argue in the moment than it does with how well you prepared beforehand. You are advised, everywhere, to research the issue extensively. How much are other vendors selling that brass dish for?

What do your competitors charge for the service you’re offering? How much does a person with your experience usually get paid? What you’re looking for is a standard, and your real goal, of course, is to find the standard that suggests the best deal for you. Bargaining for Advantagethe book by Wharton professor G. Richard Shell, often backs its arguments with tidbits drawn from psychological research. For example, the “consistency principle” refers to people’s need to appear reasonable.

You can take advantage of this by “skillful use of standards” to make other people feel they need to use your standards to feel reasonable.

And the more authoritative your standards seem, the better. You Can Negotiate Anythingprobably the most entertaining of the books, skips any allusion to scholarship about the human tendency to defer to authority, instead citing an old Candid Camera episode in which a surprising number of highway drivers confronted with the sign “Delaware Closed” actually turned around.

And, of course, you want to give special attention to sussing out what your opponent really wants. The other key thing that preparation should give you is alternatives. Others command you to never, ever negotiate without good alternatives. Of course, when you start trying to apply advice about research to your own situation, you may run into the problem of limited information.

One of the things that makes us feel weak as negotiators — and it’s those of us who feel weak that are likely to go looking for advice — is the sense that the other side has more information than we do. That guy in the bazaar sells brass dishes all day, every day; I’m just walking by and haven’t given brass cookware a thought. How am I supposed to know that he desperately needs cash to meet short-term rent payments on his stall?

Or where I might find alternative cookware? The advisers who get most specific about information gathering are the memoirists — the re-nowned negotiators offering their own glorious past as the model you should emulate. But their real-life anecdotes don’t always help. When sports agent Leigh Steinberg says in Winning With Integrity that you should “surround yourself” with a support team to gather information, he is probably right, but not in a way that will help you get a raise next month.

It would be great to have a staff of 20, as he does, to help you with every negotiation, but you probably don’t.

At one point he recounts a negotiation with the Minnesota Vikings. As the team made its case to Steinberg, one of his minions took its written presentation into another room, “worked out a negitiating set of responses, and delivered them oarrass me just as [the team was] wrapping up.

I’ll try to remember that at the used-car lot. When it comes to the brass-tacks moment of actually facing your negotiating negotiatng, the advice tends to jarrass on a small number of practical, basic points. In general, for example, the experts say begotiating better to let your adversary make the opening offer. The Power of Nice describes an exercise from the authors’ seminars, in which attendees are paired negoriating, each playing either the “agent” or the “publisher” in working out a book deal.


Kararss authors often say they have found the side that makes the first offer tends not to do as well in the negotiation. Because people often underestimate their own strengths and exaggerate those of their rivals.

Presumably, the best way to deal with this in a real negotiation is with better preparation. Unsurprisingly, most also say you should ask for more than you think you’ll get. The more learned-sounding books position this point as asking for the most you can reasonably defend.

More interestingly, while we might imagine that the likely winner is the one who makes a forceful and overbearing presentation, the experts tend to agree that this is wrong: You are better off doing more listening and questioning than bloviating.

In fact, practically everyone endorses out-and-out silence. Let’s say karrasz faced with an opponent who behaves irrationally; resist the temptation to respond in kind, counsels Getting to Yes.

You might counter with a question “How did you arrive at that figure? The best thing to do may be to just sit there and not say a word. Questions, the experts suggest, are useful for fending off someone else’s question that you’re not prepared to answer. It’s tempting to imagine two negotiators stuck on the crucialness of queries, sinking into an infinite loop of statement avoidance.

And they are useful in figuring out what the other side’s logic is — meaning that you should ask questions even when you think you know the answer.

Shell cites studies showing that the most successful karrxss also happen to be the most persistent question-askers — and listeners. Negotiation gurus Roger Dawson and Chester Karrass, among others, not only support this idea but note that questions beginning with who, where, what, why, and how are better than yes-no queries.

Jim Camp, a negotiation coach whose book Start With No was published last year, goes into considerable detail on “interrogative-led” questions. For example hegotiating is the biggest issue we face?

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Camp’s thinking is that in any conversation, it’s the listener who has the power. Many experts offer examples of inquisitorial jujitsu. Imagine your adversary, before you are ready, asks, “What is the most you would pay if you had to? If you think no agreement is possible, and that we may be wasting our time, perhaps we could disclose our thinking to some trustworthy third party, who can then tell us whether there is a zone of potential agreement.

The Power of Nice offers another example. And indeed those are very impressive responses. But can you really imagine yourself saying anything remotely like that in the heat of karass When you’ve just been asked something that really ticks you off? In the erfective of a deal that you really want to close? And if you really can’t see yourself showing that sort of poise, is it possible to change yourself so thoroughly?

The appeal of the “win-win” style is obvious: You can get what you want without being a effectice.

But a number of rival experts revel in taking shots at this approach. Roger Dawson snorts that the Parable of the Orange is nice, negotiatiing in the real world such neat solutions are rare.

Even The Power of Nice cautions that win-win thinking is often “a loser’s excuse for surrender. Inside he is more blunt.