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The key points of 'Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In' by Roger Fisher

In 'Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In' by Roger Fisher, the art of negotiation is explored through effective communication, building relationships, and negotiation strategies. By understanding the key takeaways from this book, individuals can enhance their negotiation skills and achieve mutually beneficial agreements.

Key Takeaways

  • Principled Negotiation emphasizes the importance of fairness, mutual gains, and problem-solving rather than manipulation or coercion.

  • BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is a critical concept that helps negotiators assess their alternatives and make informed decisions during negotiations.

  • Separate the People from the Problem encourages negotiators to focus on the issues at hand and not let personal emotions interfere with the negotiation process.

  • Active Listening involves fully engaging in the conversation, understanding the other party's perspective, and demonstrating empathy and understanding.

  • Ask Open-Ended Questions facilitates meaningful dialogue, encourages the exploration of interests, and helps uncover underlying concerns and motivations.

Negotiation Strategies

Principled Negotiation

Principled negotiation is a cornerstone concept in 'Getting to Yes,' advocating for a method that is fair and efficient. Focus on merits rather than positions to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. This approach encourages negotiators to look beyond short-term gains and consider the long-term relationship.

Interests should guide the negotiation process, not the entrenched positions that parties often cling to. By identifying shared interests, parties can work towards solutions that satisfy the broader objectives of both sides.

  • Separate the people from the problem

  • Focus on interests, not positions

  • Invent options for mutual gain

  • Insist on using objective criteria


Understanding your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is crucial in any negotiation. Knowing your BATNA provides leverage, as it sets a threshold that any acceptable agreement must surpass. It's not just about having an alternative; it's about having a strong one.

To determine your BATNA, follow these steps:

  1. Identify all possible alternatives.

  2. Evaluate these alternatives based on their potential outcomes.

  3. Select the alternative that would serve you best if the current negotiation fails.

Remember, the strength of your BATNA directly influences your position in the negotiation. The better your alternatives, the more power you have to push for favorable terms.

Separate the People from the Problem

In the realm of negotiation, it's crucial to keep the relationship separate from the substantive issues at hand. This approach is about addressing the problem without damaging the relationship between the parties involved. By doing so, negotiators can focus on the issue objectively without being clouded by emotions or ego.

Emotions, perceptions, and communication can often entangle with the problem, making it harder to solve. It's essential to recognize these as separate elements and address them independently. Here's how you can put this strategy into practice:

  • Recognize emotional responses and address them directly.

  • Ensure that each party's perceptions are acknowledged and understood.

  • Communicate clearly and avoid personal attacks or defensive behavior.

Effective Communication

Active Listening

Active listening is a cornerstone of effective communication in negotiations. By fully concentrating on what is being said, rather than just passively 'hearing' the message of the speaker, negotiators can better understand the underlying interests and emotions.

Empathy is often built through active listening, as it allows negotiators to acknowledge the other party's perspective and feelings. This can lead to a more collaborative atmosphere where both parties feel understood and valued.

  • Show genuine interest in the speaker's point of view

  • Avoid interrupting while the other party is speaking

  • Provide feedback that shows you have understood

  • Ask clarifying questions when necessary

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions in negotiations is a powerful tool to uncover the underlying interests and motivations of the other party. Open-ended questions encourage dialogue and can reveal information that may not surface with yes-or-no inquiries. These questions often begin with 'what', 'how', or 'why', prompting more detailed responses.

Engagement in the conversation increases as both parties explore possibilities and understand each other's perspectives. This approach fosters a collaborative environment where solutions can be co-created.

  • What are your main concerns?

  • How do you see this issue?

  • Why is this important to you?

Use 'I' Statements

Utilizing 'I' statements can significantly alter the tone of a negotiation, making it more about expressing personal needs and perspectives rather than casting blame. These statements help in taking ownership of one's feelings and opinions without making the other party defensive.

  • I feel [emotion] when [specific situation] because [reason].

  • I need [what you need] in order to [what it will enable you to do].

  • I would like [desired action or change].

By framing your language around yourself, you encourage a more collaborative and empathetic dialogue. This approach fosters an environment where both parties are more willing to engage in open and honest communication.

Building Relationships

Focus on Interests, Not Positions

In the realm of negotiation, it's crucial to focus on interests rather than positions. Interests represent the underlying reasons or needs that are at stake, while positions are merely the stances we take to satisfy those interests. By understanding and addressing each other's interests, parties can often find solutions that are more satisfying and durable than if they had simply negotiated over positions.

Interests can include a wide range of concerns such as financial stability, personal recognition, or future opportunities. To effectively uncover interests, one might:

  • Ask why the other party holds their position

  • Explore what would happen if their position were met

  • Consider what would happen if their position were not met

Identifying interests requires active listening and empathy, as it involves understanding the motivations and desires that drive the other party. This approach not only leads to better outcomes but also helps in building stronger relationships and trust.

Generate Options for Mutual Gain

In the pursuit of successful negotiations, it's crucial to generate a plethora of options before deciding on a solution. This brainstorming phase encourages creativity and sidesteps the common pitfall of becoming too attached to a single avenue. By exploring a wide range of possibilities, parties can uncover innovative solutions that benefit all involved.

Creativity is not just about coming up with many options, but also about breaking free from the constraints of conventional thinking. A useful approach is to think in terms of mutual gains rather than individual victories. Here's a simple list to help parties expand their thinking:

  • Brainstorm openly and without criticism

  • Look for shared interests

  • Consider the other party's perspective

  • Suggest easy-to-implement solutions

  • Aim for options that offer gains to all sides

Develop Trust

In the realm of negotiation, trust is the cornerstone that supports the entire structure of a collaborative agreement. Without it, even the most promising deals can crumble. To develop trust, parties must demonstrate reliability, integrity, and openness throughout the negotiation process.

Transparency is key to building trust. When negotiators are open about their intentions and concerns, it fosters a sense of security and mutual respect. This can be achieved by sharing information, acknowledging each other's needs, and being consistent in words and actions.

  • Show genuine interest in the other party's perspective.

  • Keep commitments and promises.

  • Communicate openly and honestly.

  • Be willing to admit mistakes and learn from them.


In conclusion, 'Getting to Yes' by Roger Fisher provides valuable insights into the art of negotiation and the principles of principled negotiation. By focusing on interests, not positions, and creating options for mutual gain, negotiators can achieve better outcomes without giving in. The book's key points emphasize the importance of collaboration, communication, and creative problem-solving in reaching agreements that satisfy all parties involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is principled negotiation?

Principled negotiation is an approach to negotiation that focuses on reaching agreement based on principles and mutual interests, rather than on positions and power.

What is BATNA?

BATNA stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. It refers to the alternative course of action that a party can take if negotiations fail to reach a satisfactory agreement.

How can I separate the people from the problem in negotiation?

To separate the people from the problem, focus on the issues at hand rather than personal emotions or relationships. Address the problem as a shared challenge to be solved together.

What is active listening and why is it important in negotiation?

Active listening is the practice of fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what is being said. It is important in negotiation as it helps build rapport, understanding, and trust.

Why should I use 'I' statements in communication?

Using 'I' statements helps to express feelings, thoughts, and concerns without blaming or accusing others. It promotes open and constructive communication.

How can I develop trust in a negotiation?

Trust can be developed in a negotiation by being honest and transparent, keeping commitments, showing empathy, and working towards mutual benefit and fairness.

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