Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher Book Review
Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher has been an eye opener for me regarding the way I lead discussions especially in my job or professional environments since reading the book. I started to become more conscious before I start going into a consultation with my clients or colleagues when working on a project. The book has given me the proper tools and guidance to prepare for any argument by stepping into the other parties’ shoes.
My key learning might not necessarily be one of the specific tools or practices described in the book, but about negotiation itself. Negotiation is an art. It depends highly on the environment held in, people or parties and their emotions and the subject of discussion. So, it is hard to follow the one step-by-step guide, that is always applicable, but I learned, that it is possible to approach any conversation, argument, or discussion in a way to enable a wise outcome. The toolbox that is provided in the second chapter focuses on four elements: People, Interests, Options and Criteria. The book enables the reader to universally prepare for any argument which then helps to keep control over oneself during a discussion.
Another take-away is to re-consider on the target of the negotiation. To not focus on a specific position and argue from it, but to keep in mind why the negotiation is necessary. I negotiate because I want to produce an outcome that is better than what I can get without negotiating. To understand this, I believe, can help a lot of people to step out of their corner. To visualize this, one can imagine a boxing fight. If one of the fighter’s gets pushed on the side of a ring, they get into defense mode, the fight probably must get stopped because it will not go anywhere from there. Same with negotiation, you create an open space and avoid starting to argue from a corner. While this might be a harsh visualization, arguments might also be quite harsh especially in a business environment where decision from a negotiation or discussion might impact an employee’s targets, KPI’s or the way they have to work in the future. This goes along with Fishers “Focus on interest, not positions” (Fisher, p. 10).
It becomes clear while reading the book that objectivity seems to be an important driver of successful negotiation. To detangle an issue from a person, not accusing or questioning them avoids a tense atmosphere. By exploring intentions and asking valid question, it helps to give everyone confidence in the discussion, feeling of being an expert on the matter. To show the will in wanting to understand, one assures trust with each other and sets a good tone to start on a solution design. Reading the book has helped me to understand what and why some of the critical meetings I had in the past were going right unintentionally, while helping me to comprehend what was going wrong in others.
While reading the book, many situations of negotiation were brought back to my mind. It was surprising to me how many lines I could draw from examples in the book with personal and business situations I had experienced.
The book stands out from other books about negotiation and bargaining through cutting the aspect of convincing. The methods and practices described by Fisher never evolve around convincing a party or pushing them into a corner that they have no other option than saying “yes”. This is where my experiences most corresponded with what I was reading and become very relatable. In my experience, I do not think I had one argumentation where taking the approach to convince my parents, friends, working colleagues etc. has ever been successful. This might be since I am a very bad convincer, but this also feels very unnatural to me. When you type “convincing definition” into google, the first result you get, reads “capable of causing someone to believe that something is true or real.” (https://www.google.com/search?q=convincing+definition&rlz=1C1GCEA_enCH852CH852&oq=convincing+definition&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i19i22i30l9.5096j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8, 2021). This comes with a bad taste to me. Looking at persuasion on a social level, you might make your partner, opponent feel uncomfortable or tricked, which will have a negative impact on the relationship in the following partnership. I believe a situation similar that most people can relate is going into a store to try on clothes, where a salesperson is trying to persuade and convince you to buy the jacket, you might not be sure about. The consequence is most likely that one felt pressured and intimidated, so you will not return to the store. Rather than a salesperson getting into a dialog with you, to understand what you are looking for and helping you to figure out what you like and not like about the jacket on you. As a client you will feel understood and build a trust to the salesperson that they are looking at you with a professional eye. In general, I believe that agreements should suit all affected best possible and to me, this requires facts. Therefore, I do not support convincement, but talking facts and conclude on them. Pushing another party to believe something to be true or untrue to get their “yes”, might even cause trouble when it comes to implementing the agreement in practice in a later stage. The opposite party might not have properly understood the agreement, so they are not able to implement it successfully or they start having doubts or regrets and will not stick to it. As a result, a successful agreement as mentioned by Fisher is more likely to be sustainable.
I made this experience myself that by talking through the specific process with the other party, which was causing some issues for me and my team, we helped each other to understand the problem. To show the will in wanting to understand, I assured trust with them and we set a good tone to start on a solution design. This is also being reflected in the book under “speak to be understood” (Fisher, p. 21). Additionally, we took the time to note down how the agreement needs to look in the future for both of us to be able to work. This way we created a solution with our agreement that we could implement easily and on a long-term.
While this has been a really good experience I had made in the past, I also had to hold arguments that were more difficult to negotiate and elaborate a proper solution. Reading the book has helped me to understand what was going right in the example mentioned unintentionally, while helping me to comprehend what was going wrong in others.