Getting to Yes Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Getting To Yes is a handbook for having successful negotiations that teaches everything you need to know about resolving conflicts of all kinds and reaching win-win solutions in every discussion without giving in or making the other person unhappy.

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My wife and I often talk about how much the world has changed in the last few decades. Just look at house designs and you can see the transformation that society has gone through in the way families interact with each other, for one. 

And although it might seem like a while ago, it wasn’t too far in the past that most arenas of life were controlled by just one person. They were the only ones making the decisions and didn’t have to even talk to anyone else to move forward in whatever way they felt was best.

Today, it takes multiple people to make all kinds of choices, whether in a family, business, or another realm of life. That means we’ve got to negotiate to come to solutions that are beneficial to everyone involved. Which isn’t always easy.

Thankfully we have the timeless book by Roger Fisher, Getting to Yes: How To Negotiate Agreement Without Giving In. Although it was written in the late 1980s, it’s tips on coming to agreements in all aspects of life are still applicable and will lead to success today.

These are the 3 most memorable lessons I got out of this book:

  1. Remember that you’re always negotiating with other human beings who are just like you in many ways.
  2. Don’t come into a discussion with the solution you want, consider all options to reach a win-win outcome.
  3. Prepare well and all your negotiations will go well.

Let’s get right into these ideas and see how much we can learn!

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Lesson 1: Everybody that you negotiate with is a human being, just like you.

Although it would be nice, conversations are never a simple discussion of facts by two people who are completely rational. In reality, you’re always dealing with two different sides to the story, two separate interpretations of reality. 

It’s important to remember that whoever you’re dealing with brings their own values, emotions, experiences, and personalities to the negotiation and so do you. That’ll make it at least a little easier to try to recognize when you’re not on the same page!

Also, keep in mind that everybody responds differently to the same circumstances. Some may get aggressive after a lengthy and intense discussion, while others end up defensive. Unfortunately, these emotions can make for a completely unproductive conversation once they arise. 

You might be tempted to use rational arguments to calm the situation, but that won’t work when emotions are at play. Every negotiation will always have these two aspects, the factual and the emotional, to it. While it’s impossible to separate them, it’s important to recognize each and the potential they have to make things difficult.

This means addressing and working through intense emotions like fear or anger. You’ll need to have empathy, listen well, and consider the other person’s viewpoint if you’re going to come to a satisfactory resolution.

Lesson 2: If you want to reach a win-win outcome you must consider every option instead of focusing on one solution.

Think of the last time you had to negotiate with someone. Did you go in with a clear picture of what you wanted? Were you committed to making it happen no matter what? Chances are if that was the case then things didn’t turn out how you expected.

Fixating on solutions first doesn’t work because it only looks at one side of the problem. If you’re having a conversation with me and fail to consider what would be in my best interests, you’ll have a really tough time convincing me of anything.

Instead, you need to open your mind to talking through all sorts of potential solutions. You also must make sure that both people are happy with one of them before agreeing to it.

If someone told you that you had to decide who the Nobel Prize winner would be, you wouldn’t just go pick a person immediately. You’d make a list of people who might deserve it and choose from that list. Negotiations should be the same way.

Think of all negotiations as having two parts:

  1. Identify and talk through all potential solutions, considering even extreme options. If necessary, consult experts, draw it out, or brainstorm with each other.
  2. Agree on the solution that best meets both of your needs.

Lesson 3: The best results come when you prepare for your negotiations well.

To get ready for a negotiation, you have to learn as much as possible about all aspects of what you’re about to get into. Compile all the information you can and review it carefully. 

You need to know about the people and the context of the situation to prepare well. Consider what the other person’s values are. What are their goals and interests? Are the interests of their bosses or spouses important? Are there other factors that may affect what they want?

By preparing as much as possible, you’ll understand enough to get your point across well. You’ll also significantly increase the chances that you’ll come to a fair conclusion for both sides.

If you’re unprepared, you’ll probably end up wasting your time arguing due to unforeseen emotions, prejudices, and assumptions. 

You also must consider the logistics of your discussion. Where will it happen and at what time? Is it better to be done face to face, on the phone, or by email? If you establish a deadline will that help or make things worse?

It might take time to consider all the details, but doing so will prepare you to make the negotiation a positive experience for both sides. And by doing that you’ll be far more likely to end up with a resolution that everybody is happy with!

Getting To Yes Review

I enjoyed Getting To Yes, although it reminded me of a lot of other books on this subject. The good thing about getting even more negotiation tips, however, is that you’ll always need them so you can never have too many! This book is going to be beneficial to a wide range of people, whether you’re in a formal setting or just deciding what movie to watch with your spouse!

Who would I recommend the Getting To Yes summary to?

The 29-year-old who is just getting settled into their career and wants to be better at communicating than their managers are, the 55-year-old married couple that doesn’t have kids living at home anymore but never really learned to express their needs efficiently, and anyone who needs to get to a win-win solution in a conflict.

Last Updated on September 21, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.