More An Appreciation Than A Review…

In my last post I described why “The Conflict Pivot” by mediator Dr Tammy Lenski is my favorite book on conflict resolution. The renowned “Getting To Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by the late Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton occupies a similar status as my favorite book on negotiation.

It could be reasonably argued that with well over two million copies sold in 18 different languages, “Getting To Yes” has had a profound impact on our society and our perception of agreement. It definitely has had a profound impact on me.

Why you should read this book – even if you have already.

There are many reviews of this book the vast majority of which are extremely positive. Rather than adding to this list I want to describe why it is so important and what its secrets can offer to both experienced and inexperienced negotiators alike.

The secrets behind the success ~ #1 Foundation

The first reason “Getting To Yes” was such a success is that instead of reinventing the wheel the researchers went out and gathered as much experiential and theoretical knowledge to date (circa 1980). This roots the book firmly in the prevailing thinking of the time, which is important when embarking on a new direction. They distilled and assembled this body of information into a structure that resonated with experienced negotiators and made sense to those new to the craft. They filtered out the hyperbole and much of the nonsensical notions of the time and instead presented a workable formula that anyone could understand and apply.

Secret #2 ~ The “Win-Win” & BATNA

The second reason “Getting To Yes” was such a success is that it brought to the fore the construct known as the “Win-Win” agreement. I firmly believe that commentators that unfairly criticise the “win-win” concept never really fully understand the concept as the authors intended.  The pin that holds the win-win together is another landmark concept proposed in the book – the BATNA or Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Often referred to as “your fall-back position” the BATNA is so much more than that. The BATNA is nuanced, on you and what happens to you. Very simply, any agreement that enhances your BATNA should be agreed and any which doesn’t should be rejected.

Secret #3 ~ Knowing and doing are different!

The final reason “Getting To Yes” is such an empowering book is due to the languageand the narratives it describes. With each re-read of the book the language of negotiation becomes your dominant (even subconscious) response to disagreement.  It becomes the most natural thing to the reader to choose to avoid positional bargaining, to choose to depersonalise issues and to choose to insist on objective criteria for decision making.

“Getting To Yes” is a wonderful text and will certainly improve your negotiation skills. I have yet to read a better book on negotiation. I run Negotiation Skills Workshops and as part of the handouts I give a recommended reading list. Number one on that list is “Getting To Yes”. The copy I currently own is brand new (again) after loaning it to a friend who has decided they might as well hang on to it (again).

I’m happy with this, win-win.



Fisher, R., Ury, W., Patton, B., 2011. Getting to Yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in, 3rd ed., Penguin, New York.