The book "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" provides the reader with instructions for engaging in effective negotiation through the use of principles developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP). In the book, the authors, Roger Fisher and William Ury, paint a context for their proposed negotiation technique by showing the reader two extreme negotiation stances that a negotiator might adopt during the course of a negotiation. The authors term these opposite methods of negotiation "hard" and "soft" negotiation.
The hard negotiator makes threats and demands and sticks to his position at all costs in order to bend the other side to his will. The hard negotiator relies on intimidation and possibly deceit to "persuade" the other side to give in to his demands. Hard negotiators care primarily, and perhaps even exclusively, about winning. They are not concerned about the effect the negotiation process may have on the relationship between the parties. The human aspect of the negotiation is secondary to achieving the best possible result for the negotiator's constituents. In the end, the hard negotiator may win the game, but he will not win any popularity contests.
Soft negotiation is a technique employed by the negotiator who is primarily concerned with avoiding stepping on the toes of the other side. The soft negotiator is concerned more about the people than the issues, more about being fair than about getting the most he can for his side. The soft negotiator will often cave in on his position in order to smooth the negotiation process and ensure that an agreement is reached regardless of whether the agreement is favorable to his side. The soft negotiator may let the other side take what it wants at his expense. This may ultimately cause the soft negotiator to feel resentful and taken advantage of.
The authors present a third method of negotiation -- "principled negotiation" -- which they claim is a negotiation technique superior to both hard and soft negotiation because it is the middle ground. Principled negotiation employs the effective aspects of both hard and soft negotiation without incorporating the negative aspects of either. In principled negotiation, opposing sides work together to resolve a common problem. The authors call this being soft on the people, but hard on the issues. The core principles of the HNP technique are: (1) separate the people from the problem, (2) focus on interests, not positions, (3) invent options for mutual gain, and (4) insist on using objective criteria.
Interpretation of the Book
The first precept of the principled negotiation method is to separate the people from the problem. The authors rightly point out that the negotiators involved necessarily are all human beings with their own emotional reactions, fears, concerns and biases. Thus, even if the situation itself is horribly upsetting to everyone involved, the process of negotiation is eased if the negotiators are not primarily engaged in taking out their angers and frustrations at the negotiators for the other side.
The goal in distinguishing between the people and the problem is to avoid blaming the other side for the problem, but to instead give those on the other side the opportunity to explain their position, fears, and concerns. By listening to the other side, the principled negotiator is able not only to see that those on the other side have their own human emotions, fears, and biases, but that the other side is no happier about the situation than he is and that they have just as much of an interest in making the problem go away. In this way, the problem becomes the common enemy that the opposing sides must work together to conquer. And, the authors reassure the reader, listening to the other side's reasons and concerns will not destroy the negotiation process because "[u]nderstanding their point-of-view is not the same as agreeing with it." (p. 24)
In addition, allowing those on the other side to express their feelings and concerns will likely have the effect of reassuring them that the negotiator is not out to get them and that he is genuinely concerned with solving the problem and not with destroying them or simply winning the argument. By putting a human face on the other side, the principled negotiator may be able to work more easily with the other side and may not be as likely to vilify them.
Significantly, the authors suggest that the principled negotiator will allow the other side to blow of steam and will refrain from reacting to emotional outbursts. This gives those on the other side an opportunity to get all of their concerns out so that no lingering emotions are kept festering inside during the course of the negotiation. Instead of attacking the other side, the principled negotiator should listen and make sure that those on the other side know they are being heard. The authors suggest that making emotions explicit and acknowledging them as legitimate will "make the negotiations less reactive and more pro-active." (p. 30)
Treating the other side with human respect may surprise them and encourage them to trust the principled negotiator, whereas, before, they might have been defensive and guarded. If the negotiator in turn expresses his primary fears and sincerely states his concerns, those on the other side will be likely to reciprocate. This creates a cooperative working environment where the lines of communication are open.
While these tips may seem rather elementary, and the authors do a nice job of giving examples of how to create an opportunity for open communication, this precept does still require the principled negotiator to keep a tight lip. He must allow those on the other side to freely express their emotions and anger. He must allow them to state their desires and needs. He must do these things without expressing any anger towards the other side and without challenging their positions, even when he may emphatically disagree. This aspect of the process of principled negotiation harks of the "soft negotiation" method, in that the negotiator does his best to appease those on the other side. The principled negotiator must therefore be one who is able to restrain his emotions in the face of extremely emotional issues.
In the second precept of the principled negotiation method, the authors direct the principled negotiator to focus on interests of the opposing sides instead of their opposing positions. By keeping the desired end results separate from the reasons behind the desired end results, the principled negotiator may be able to identify an agreement amenable to both sides. This is because the roots of the problem are not as readily apparent as the differing positions, nor are the reasons behind the positions likely to be as packed with emotion.
The authors suggest that there are usually multiple interests satisfied by the same position. For this reason, it is often the case that opposing positions do not necessarily reflect opposing interests. In fact, the interests of the opposing sides may be able to be reconciled, but this is possible only if the interests of the opposing sides are known. Again, open communication is the key. The determination of a solution to the problem requires each side to specifically articulate its interests in order of their importance. Once these interests are set forth, both sides can be expected to hold fast to them and to protect them at all costs. Adhering to interests is different, the authors point out, than sticking hard and fast to positions. The goal of the parties to the negotiation is to work together to find a solution that will satisfy the major interests of both sides.
This aspect of the technique of principled negotiation allows the principled negotiator to begin to get tough on the interests. He is asked in the first step to be soft on the people involved, but now he can advocate heartily for the interests that are most important to him. Because he has given the other side an opportunity to be heard and to express their interests, he is free to defend his interests while accepting the right of the other side to defend its interests.
Now that the interests are known to both sides, the parties must reach an agreement as to the way to meet these interests. In order to create a workable agreement, the principled negotiator should invent options for mutual gain. Rather than looking at the positions the sides were formerly fighting over, the authors suggest that the principled negotiator must expand the pie before dividing it. (p. 56). This means that the negotiator has to get creative, has to view the problem and the solutions in new ways, take all of the interests into account, and think of new and different ways to reach them. The authors suggest that brainstorming is the best way to create a large pool of options from which the best ideas can be chosen and honed into workable solutions.
In order to brainstorm, the principled negotiator…