When I did my MBA in the late 90s, I remember taking my Negotiations class and our professor had put Getting to Yes on the course outline, but never thoroughly addressed it in class. His rationale was this: it’s a foundational negotiations book; everyone else will have read it, and so should we. I did read it, and I enjoyed it quite a bit and have found it to be invaluable ever since. I have recommended it to many people over the years, and I still remember to discover my BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), enlarge the pie, and create win-win situations. Many other books and publications from the Harvard Negotiations Project have continued to be of interest, and I had to read other negotiations books for my MBA, but nothing has really come on the market since 1981 to foundationally change how I view negotiations. Until now.Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys tackle Getting to Yes right in the preface. They point out the following: “[Getting to Yes] implied that agreement is the outcome to which every negotiator should aspire: agreement = success. The way to arrive at an agreement is to create value for your counterpart as well as yourself – the famous win-win solution… the more value you create, the more value you can claim and the less conflict will exist… The Getting to Yes framework ignores a critical point: Regardless of how much value you create in a negotiation, what’s important is the amount of value you ultimately get.”
Starting from this new vantage point, the authors continue throughout their book with compelling examples to demonstrate how to create common ground, create and claim value, and how to map out the negotiation. It was this last section, on mapping out the negotiation, that I found especially valuable. There is so much depth and knowledge in just this one chapter that I would recommend the book based on these few pages alone. I’m unable to condense the richness of this chapter meaningfully, but suffice it to say that the authors walk you through how to figure out what you want in a very concrete way, how to determine and analyze and predict your counterpart’s perspective, how to develop your negotiation strategy, and what you need to consider as you plan, drawing on the experience and research of the authors.By this point in this review, if you have made it this far, you may be wondering “Why is Positive Psychology News Daily reviewing a book on negotiations?” Fair question. There are two reasons that I would suggest.
First, as Dan Pink has suggested in To Sell Is Human, we’re all in sales. Perhaps about 1 in 9 people have sales officially in their titles or on their tax returns, but really, we’re all trying to sell whether through influence, persuasion, direction, and son on. Additionally, we are all buyers. We all need to know how to negotiate from either side of the equation.
But let’s speak specifically to positive psychology. What does that have to do with negotiations? The authors of Getting (More of) What You Want draw on several researchers who are connected to positive psychology, including Daniel Kahneman and his work in Thinking Fast and Slow on anchoring (useful to determine who should make the first offer, and what it should be) and Sigal Barsade on emotional contagion followed by what happens when negotiators are in a good mood (which, spoiler alert, leads to quick, cooperative, and inefficient agreements).Finally, this is a heavily research-based book which would make it highly attractive to anyone who is interested in the why and wherefore of negotiating. We know by now that the economic standard of the rational man, Homo economicus, actually doesn’t exist. We are, to use Dan Ariely’s book title, predictably irrational, due to our many heuristics and cognitive biases. When you throw different emotional states in there, as well as the desire to preserve (or not) relationships while coming to value-add outcomes – well negotiations are tricky business.
Every little bit helps to understand what’s really going on and how your perspective, thoughts, words, and emotions can change, for better or for worse, the final outcome with regards to both value and relationship.
Neale, M. & Lys, T. (2015). Getting (More of) What You Want: How the Secrets of Economics and Psychology Can Help You Negotiate Anything, in Business and in Life. Basic Books.
Sources referenced in the review
Ariely, D. (2010). Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Harper Perennial.
Barsade, S. (2002). The ripple effect: Emotioal contagion and its influence on group behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47, 644-675.
Fisher, R. & Ury, W. (1981, 2011). Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Updated and revised. Penguin Books.
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. London, Allen Lane.
Pink, D. (2013). To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Riverhead Trade.