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About the Author

Roger Fisher is the Samuel Williston Professor of Law Emeritus and director emeritus of the Harvard Negotiation Project.

William Ury cofounded the Harvard Negotiation Project and is the award-winning author of several books on negotiation.

Bruce Patton is cofounder and Distinguished Fellow of the Harvard Negotiation Project and the author of Difficult Conversations, a New York Times bestseller.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

 Chapter 4: Invent Options for Mutual Gain

The case of Israel and Egypt negotiating over who should keep how much of the Sinai Peninsula illustrates both a major problem in negotiation and a key opportunity.

the pie that leaves both parties satisfied. Often you are negotiating along a single dimension, such as the amount of territory, the price of a car, the length of a lease on an apartment, or the size of a commission on a sale. At other times you face what appears to be an either/or choice that is either markedly favorable to you or to the other side. In a divorce settlement, who gets the house? Who gets custody of the children? You may see the choice as one between winning and losing- and neither side will agree to lose. Even if you do win and get the car for $12,000, the lease for five years, or the house and kids, you have a sinking feeling that they will not let you forget it. Whatever the situation, your choices seem limited.

option like a demilitarized Sinai can often make the difference between deadlock and agreement. One lawyer we know attributes his success directly to his ability to invent solutions advantageous to both his client and the other side. He expands the pie before dividing it. Skill at inventing options is one of the most useful assets a negotiator can have.

Yet all too often negotiators end up like the proverbial children who quarreled over an orange. After they finally agreed to divide the orange in half, the first child took one half, ate the fruit, and threw away the peel, while the other threw away. the fruit and used the peel from the second half in baking a cake. All too often negotiators "leave money on the table" - they fail to reach agreement when they might have, or the agreement they do reach could have been better for each side. Too many negotiations end up with half an orange for each side instead of the whole fruit for one and the whole peel for the other. Why?


As valuable as it is to have many options, people involved in a negotiation rarely sense a need for them. In a dispute, people usually believe that they know the right answer - their view should prevail. In a contract negotiation they are equally likely to believe that their offer is reasonable and should be adopted, perhaps with some adjustment in the price. All available answers appear to lie along a straight line between their position and yours. Often the only creative thinking shown is to suggest splitting the difference.

inventing of an abundance of options: (1) premature judgment; (2) searching for the single answer; (3) the assumption of a fixed pie; and (4) thinking that "solving their problem is their problem." In order to overcome these constraints, you need to understand them.

Premature judgment

Inventing options does not come naturally. Not inventing is the normal state of affairs, even when you are outside a stressful negotiation. If you were asked to name the one person in the world most deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, any answer you might start to propose would immediately encounter your reservations and doubts. How could you be sure that that person was the most deserving? Your mind might well go blank, or you might throw out a few answers that would reflect conventional thinking: "Well, maybe the Pope, or the President."

pounce on the drawbacks of any new idea. Judgment hinders imagination.

sense is likely to be sharper. Practical negotiation appears to call for practical thinking, not wild ideas.

on the other side. Suppose you are negotiating with your boss over your salary for the coming year. You have asked for a $4,000 raise; your boss has offered you $1,500, a figure that you have indicated is unsatisfactory. In a tense situation like this you are not likely to start inventing imaginative solutions. You may fear that if you suggest some bright half-baked idea like taking half the increase in a raise and half in additional benefits, you might look foolish. Your boss might say, "Be serious. You know better than that. It would upset company policy. I am surprised. that you even suggested it." If on the spur of the moment you invent a possible option of spreading out the raise over time, he may take it as an offer: "I'm prepared to start negotiating on that basis." Since he may take whatever you say as a commitment, you will think twice before saying anything.

piece of information that will jeopardize your bargaining position. If you should suggest, for example, that the company help finance the house you are about to buy, your boss may conclude that you intend to stay and that you will in the end accept any raise in salary he is prepared to offer.

Searching for the single answer

In most people's minds, inventing simply is not part of the negotiating process. People see their job as narrowing the gap between positions, not broadening the options available. They tend to think, "We're having a hard enough time agreeing as it is. The last thing we need is a bunch of different ideas." Since the end product of negotiation is a single decision, they fear that freefloating discussion will only delay and confuse the process.

the second is premature closure. By looking from the outset for the single best answer, you are likely to short-circuit a wiser decision-making process in which you select from a large number of possible answers.

The assumption of a fixed pie

A third explanation for why there may be so few good options on the table is that each side sees the situation as essentially either/or - either I get what is in dispute or you do. A negotiation often appears to be a "fixed-sum" game; $100 more for you on the price of a car means $100 less for me. Why bother to invent if all the options are obvious and I can satisfy you only at my own expense?

Thinking that "solving their problem Is their problem"

A final obstacle to inventing realistic options lies in each side's concern with only its own immediate interests. For a negotiator to reach an agreement that meets his own self-interest he needs to develop a solution which also appeals to the self-interest of the other. Yet emotional involvement on one side of an issue makes it difficult to achieve the detachment necessary to think up wise ways of meeting the interests of both sides: "We've got enough problems of our own; they can look after theirs." There also frequently exists a psychological reluctance to accord any legitimacy to the views of the other side; it seems disloyal to think up ways to satisfy them. Shortsighted self- concern thus leads a negotiator to develop only partisan positions, partisan arguments, and one-sided solutions....

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Upd Rev edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143118757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143118756
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (414 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Shea HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 2, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of Fisher and Ury's book is Getting to Yes - Negotiating Agreement without Giving In. It's a case where the title clearly lays out what the book is about. In Getting to Yes the authors present, step by step, how to find your way to a win-win solution that helps meet your goals while at the same time preserving the relationship so that future negotiations also go smoothly.

This book was the assigned textbook for a college course I took on negotiation, but it's one of those fairly rare cases where the material that's useful for a college course is also immensely useful for off-the-street people in a variety of situations. This book avoids complicated jargon and long, droning background chapters. Instead, it plunges into helpful information to assist people in negotiating for a new car, negotiating issues with their landlords, and all the many ways we all negotiate for our position throughout life.

Negotiation isn't just for union leaders trying to avert a strike. All of us negotiate each day as we try to juggle our many roles. We negotiate with our co-workers over assignments. We negotiate with our family members over chores. In an ideal world all of those discussions would go quickly, smoothly, and with as little strife as possible.

Getting to Yes provided numerous helpful examples which made their points more easy to understand. It is so true that people tend to remember stories where they might not remember dry text. When I think about this book I do remember several of the stories clearly, and those help to represent the points the authors were making. The stories help remind me to focus on the issues when negotiating and to look for objective standards to work with.

The information presented is wonderful, and immediately useful in life.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Allan M. Lees on September 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
There are a few books that have such relevance to so many aspects of daily life that they should be on everyone's "must read" list, and this is one of them. Although at first it might seem that this is merely one more addition to the seemingly endless pile of platitudinous self-help books that crowd the bookshelves and deliver little or no real worth, in fact this book is a highly pragmatic text on the process of negotiation. The authors don't pretend that negotiating will get you everything you want - in fact they are very clear on the limitations of negotiation and how to think of negotiation as a process that has strict boundaries. What the book does is make explicit the nature of negotiation, the types of tactics people commonly use, and the most competent method for pursuing negotiations so as to maximize the possibility of achieving a negotiated outcome both parties can live with. The text is clear, the examples simple to grasp, and the conceptual framework adequately developed. Nowadays we might add some learning that evolutionary psychology has provided, but aside from that this is a superb book that can enable enhanced outcomes in most realms of life, from family conflicts through business negotiations to community issues. The entire book can be read and absorbed in less than two hours, but the lessons can be applied over a lifetime.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Houman Tamaddon on October 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
After reading Roger Dawson's "Secrets of Power Negotiating" (another outstanding book, by the way), I did not expect to learn much new material from this book. I was wrong - "Getting to Yes" offers a new approach to negotiating. As the authors point out, we negotiate constantly in our daily lives. Most of us are unaware of the times we negotiate with our friends, coworkers, and family. What this book teaches readers is to how to go about resolving conflicts in an unemotional and logical way. Much of the advice here is given in the context of negotiating, but interestingly it could have easily been positioned as a book on influence. The material here reminded me of Dale Carnegies' "How to Win Friends and Influence People" (also a brilliant book).

I don't think that people should just read this book to get an advantage in negotiating. In fact, all sides would probably be mutually better off if they read this book. It advances civil society by promoting talk over violence and anger. I wonder why these books are not required reading for high school students. I certainly wish I had come across them when I was younger.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Joshua P. OConner VINE VOICE on June 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The premise of Getting to Yes is relatively simple; in essence the traditional view of negotiation (as a game of "give and take" between parties) is largely unproductive and can shatter working relationships between parties. Under this traditional view, parties are forced to choose between hardline negotiations (where you attempt to force your desired outcome) and softline negotiation (where you make extreme concessions in order to preserve the relationship). The authors offer a new outlook (referred to as "principled negotiation") where all parties work to make objective and rational statements about their desired outcomes (including providing empirical reasoning for their desired outcome). This new approach (summarized in the Appendix) removes the oppositional/adversarial outlook of negotiation and works to find creative solutions which satisfy the needs of all parties involved.

The model proposed is easy to use. The first step involves detaching personal politics from negotiation. Through making the negotiation about the issue at hand, the authors claim that relationships are more likely to be preserved regardless of the outcome of the negotiation. A major element of removing personal politics from the negotiation is to focus on personal interest rather than a hard position. Expressing personal interest in more lucid terms rather than abbreviated and absolute terms (e.g. "I would like to be able to sell the house and have a capital gain that would allow me to put 20% on house X" rather than "I would like to get $160,000 for the house") allows both parties to understand the interest at play and to work to explore mutually beneficial outcomes. In addition to expressing personal interests, the authors also insist that the terms of the negotiation be expressed in objective terms (i.e.
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