Homage to the best book on negotiation ever admin February 12, 2012

Homage to the best book on negotiation ever

Apart from mine, of course! You probably know I have just written a book called “Negotiation Mastery”, available in the shops soon. In researching this, I read somewhere around 200 other books related directly or indirectly to negotiation and I thought that over the months to come I will review several of them here.

There is only one place to start – “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher & William Ury. It is the only place to start because everything starts here. Of course, there were negotiation books before its publication in 1981 but nothing has ever been the same since it was given birth into the world. Like Elvis – there was music before, but all modern music draws its lineage back to him.

The world has moved on, of course. Advances in the fields of game theory, neuroscience and behavioural economics all bring a lot of new thinking to the subject but that does not diminish this book. Even now, 30 years after its publication, it is the single best book on negotiation to read.

It goes beyond negotiation too. The distilled wisdom to be found on every page can be a primer for life as much as a guide to making the deal. It is succinct, saying everything it needs to in under 200 pages, and very readable.

But for me, its greatness lies in the fact that it tells you what to do in any negotiation situation using just 4 simple principles. That is incredibly efficient.

These are:

1) Separate the problem from the person

2) Focus on interests, not positions

3) Invent options for mutual gain

4) Insist on using objective criteria.

Together with their concept of the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, effectively your walk-away point), I can not think of a situation for which the answer is not covered by these principles.

My only complaint? That I did not write it. No, seriously, I have one small quibble and that is its treatment of power imbalances. I believe there is a lot more to the power equation than the BATNA alone. But I forgive them.

If you have studied negotiation, you know all of the above already but, in the months to come, I hope to write some reviews of books you may not have read. However, if you have yet to open a book on the topic, start here (well, after you have read mine obviously!). Whether you are an experienced negotiator or a novice, there is a lot to learn from it.

We are not worthy.