Posted: March 22nd, 2023

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In – Book Review


The book, written by Fisher and Ury, presents a qualitative description of four principles of effective negotiation. In fact, the book explains the common challenges or obstacles to negotiation and provides ways of overcoming them. In essence, the principles of negotiations are based on the ability to separate people with the problems, focusing on the interests and not on the positions, generating a variety of options before choosing the best and observing objectivity while settling on an agreement (Fisher and William 11). Nevertheless, the text avers that at times, principled negotiation may be challenged and hence advocates for the tactical and the wise challenge of the other party (Fisher and William 79). Moreover, the use of rules and procedures is effective when dealing with parties using dirty tricks in negotiations.

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Challenges with Positional Bargaining

In the positional bargain, all parties start by presenting a subjective position on the issue and then bargain towards reaching a consensus. Therefore, the subjective point creates a barrier to effective communication and restricts openness in a haggle (Fischer, William, and Bruce 5). For instance, as the book indicates that while haggling over a price, the positional bargain fails to yield the expected results. Whenever agreements are reached, one or all the parties would have to compromise on own interests (Sher 295). Under this special case, it is considered problematic because the process harms the relationship of the parties involved. Thus, the outcome of poor relations while bargaining is a failed process as Fisher and Ury explains.

Elements of Principled Negotiation

Effective bargains take into consideration four main principles as highlighted in the book. First, the issues must be separated from the people, which enable the parties to avoid bias from subjectivity (Fisher and William 11). Second, the parties should overlook the respective positions and focus on the interests. Once the parties are converging on particular interests, then objectivity in the discussion prevails. Third, the authors encourage the generation and consultation of various options to increase alternatives for consideration and avoid biased conclusions. Finally, the use of objective criteria helps the parties to overcome subjective limitations in a bargain (Fisher and William 11). Therefore, the entire process is regarded as an effective principle of negotiation. 

Most Powerful Interests

In other instances, one of the bargaining parties, (regarded as the other party) may tend to be more powerful by virtue of position or influence. Accordingly, the most influential interests as noted have a great influence on the negotiations (Fisher and William 42). The intentions make the other party feel inferior and thus explain the differences in power. Consequently, the discussion is challenged by setting “bottom line” restrictions by anticipating the worst of outcomes in the negotiations. It is worth noting that the most powerful interests are undesirable as they lead to weak negotiation agreements as illustrated by the authors. 


BATNA is defined as the best alternatives to a negotiated agreement and is contrasted with the bottom line restrictions. According to the book, BATNA offers an alternative to the restrictions that poor parties in an agreement face. Accordingly, the authors argue that the disadvantaged parties should pursue BATNA as a threshold and fail to agree to any settlement that could leave them worse off. In fact, the book notes that negotiating parties could be deliberating blindly if BATNA cannot be established. Therefore, both of the negotiating parties are encouraged to have best alternatives, which work to empower them in the negotiations.

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Common Tricky Tactics and Strategies to Overcome Them

Often, bargainers could opt to use “dirty” tricks to win a negotiation deal. For example, when one party decides to leak the confidential information to the media or third parties for personal gains in the negotiations, then the act is considered a dirty trick. At other times, one party may decide to play the “good” or the “bad” negotiator, an instance that is still considered dirty. Therefore, the ways to overcome the tricks or dirty tactics include establishing ground rules for negotiations, engaging in principled negotiations, and raising awareness during the deliberations.

Unfair Opportunities

At times, the negotiations may present opportunities where one party could take more than what is considered fair. For a principled negotiator, taking the opportunity to exploit the offer could be wrong (Mircică 64). In fact, besides compromising on personal integrity, the party could set a precedence of compromised negotiations in the future (McKersie and Joel 499). Therefore, from a subjective point, taking what one considers significantly higher than the bid could be unfair for the current and anticipated future negotiations. Therefore, one should refrain from internationally exploiting the bargaining partner.

When One SHOULD or NOT Negotiate

The principle of negotiation should be understood as a mode of settling to an agreement through mutual consensus. As such, there are conditions that must be met for people to engage in negotiations. Therefore, when certain fundamental elements are not observed, then negotiations should not be engaged. For instance, whenever the parties involved fail to identify common goals, the negotiation should not be held. Similarly, when one party assumes a superior position and fails to comply with ground rules, the negotiations should be stopped. However, someone should engage in negotiations when the other party agrees to the matters of deliberations and plays as an equal party. Finally, one should only participate in negotiations when convinced and able identify the course of the bargain as against being coerced or threatened.


The book by Fisher and Ury highlights critical lessons for effective bargaining. First, one appreciates the organizations of the principles to be used in negotiations. Again, easy and direct illustrations are used in the explanation and such approach harnesses the understanding of the book. By and large, one can also easily identify the barriers to effective bargaining and the element of BATNA for objectivity. Other lessons to derive from the book are how to overcome tactics by malicious negotiators and remain objective to the course. However, the book is limited in explaining the elements of the negotiations, which involve more than two parties. Therefore, the reader lacks guidance for individuals interested in harnessing negotiations with many parties.

Learning Lessons

From a subjective position, I find the book very informative. In fact, great lessons on effective bargaining or negotiations are highlighted. For instance, the discussion of the principles helps to overcome the challenges of positional bargaining or the use of dirty tricks by one party. Through such ideologies, one can engage in objective negotiations even when one party is deemed more powerful or when one party engages in unfair deals. Consequently, the lessons shall harness my skills and competence in any form of negotiation. I have learned to stick to objectivity, focus on the bargain interests, and separate issues from individuals. Besides, it is imperative for all parties to a negotiation to follow rules of the game as established to avoid areas of compromises and possible conflicts. Finally and most importantly, the book teaches the importance of prior planning before engaging in a bargain. In essence, earlier preparation helps the parties to remain objective in pursuing the mutual benefit of the deal.


Works Cited

Fischer, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. “Getting to yes.” Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in (traduction française, 1982: Comment réussir une négociation), Ed. le Seuil, 1981, pp. 1-7.

Fisher, Roger, and William Ury. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving in. New York, NY: Penguin, 1983.

McKersie, Robert, and Joel Cutcher‐Gershenfeld. “Labor–management relations: understanding and practicing effective negotiations.” Negotiation Journal, vo. 25, no. 4, 2009, pp. 499-514.

Mircică, Nela. “Constructive Communication in Effective Negotiation.” Analysis and Metaphysics, vol. 13, 2014, pp. 64-72.

Sher, Andrew. “FRCP 26 vs. FRE 408: Why Settlement Negotiations Should Be Privileged against Third-Party Discovery.” Cardozo J. Conflict Resol. No. 16, 2014, pp. 295.


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