Cross-posted from my other blog.
At my new job, everyone has to put together performance plans to plan and track their performance. The majority of the plan revolves around planning the projects you are working on, but there is also a part for planning your own professional development. There are a number of suggested “leadership competencies” on which you can work and they even provided suggested resources (e.g., online modules, courses, books) to help you develop in your chosen areas. In the area of “communication skills” – something I like to think is one of my strengths – one of the books on the list caught my eye: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Because, although I’m fairly strong on communication generally, I suck at negotiation. I hate it. The thought of it stresses me out. My image of negotiation is two opposing sides that hate each other, each trying to screw the other over to get as much as they possibly can for themselves. Yuck. My strengthes in communication, I feel, have to do with things like active listening, respect, fairness, objectivity and caring for other people. I don’t want to screw other people over, but I also don’t want to let them screw me over. You can see where my distaste for all things negotiation-y comes from.
But since the point of professional development is, well, development, I added reading this book to my list of things I will accomplish this fiscal year in pursuit of more skillz.
Much to my surprise, I really liked the book! It wasn’t about trying to screw over the other guy at all!
What I learned, in a nutshell, from this book was:
- separate the people from the problem – remember that the person/people you are negotiating with are people and you have to take their feelings/motives/interests into account. And if you separate the people from the substance of what you are negotiating over, you will be able to deal with both the people and the problem in a more effective way
- focus on people’s interests, not on rigidly defending a position – Getting to the heart of what each side wants (i.e., focusing on interests) allows you to come up with creative solutions that can address both sides’ interests because it opens up possibilities that you would not even consider if you were strictly saying “I want this” and “you want that.”
- have objective standards, because they are much harder to argue against than arbitrary positions. Trying to negotiate a pay raise or a house price? Find standards of what other people get paid for comparable work (or paid for a comparable house) and what would make another job (or house) comparable and that will make it easier to defend your offer and reason with the other side.
- know your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) – think about what the alternative will be if you can come to an agreement with this party. Will you be able to easily sell your house to someone else? Get another job? Knowing what your alternative is will help you decide if you want to keep negotiating or not.
And, if you can believe this, before I even finished reading1 the book, I had used its principles to negotiate a contract! By focusing on interests instead of positions for a contract I was in the process of negotiating, I was able to come up with a creative solution that satisfied both my interests and the client’s interests, despite us being quite far apart in our intial proposals (and if we had merely tried to negotiate from those positions, we either never would have come to an agreement or one of us would have had to make major concessions to the other and been quite unhappy about it). Also, I knew what my BATNA was (as I have a full-time job, I didn’t need to have the contract, so my BATNA was to decline the contract unless I was happy with the offer), which helped me to know what I was willing to accept.
Also, by total random coincidence, just the other day, while searching for some mind mapping software, I came across this mind map that summarizes the book:
Anyway, I totally think this book is worth the read. It’s called Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton.
1Well, listening to it, since it’s on CD.