Getting to Yes Workshop

In this workshop, an association member or consultant walks the members through a two-page outline created from Getting to Yes, a book authored by Harvard Law School negotiators who participated in, among other negotiations, the Iran hostage crisis.

Two association members prepared in advance to give an example of the Getting to Yes framework. One plays the role of a positional bargainer, focused on "the number." The other plays the role of a principled bargainer, focusing on objective criteria and reasonableness. Principled negotiation is the Getting to Yes approach.

Workshop Transcript

[Start 0:00:00]

Douglas: The second book written called Getting to Yes, I still have this one. This is really a super interesting book. What we’re going to do is we’re going to use this as a framework one way to analyze conversations and then deal with some real landlord-tenant disputes. The skills that the book teaches are applicable to any kind of communication with anybody, so if you’re dealing with a contractor, or an employee, or city council, Getting to Yes is a really interesting approach to it.

Rich is handing out these handouts. We’ll have them on the screen here. This book was written by two people at Harvard Law School, Roger Fisher and William Ury.

Roger Fisher was a negotiator in the Iran Hostage Crisis back in the day. That’s a really interesting example to use because if you recall, the Iranians did not release the hostages until after Carter was out of office, and then that very hour, the hostages were out. Sometimes you just can’t win. Sometimes no matter what you do, you’re dealing with somebody who’s not going to play by reasonable rules.

William Ury was related in that project. They came out of it with Jimmy Carter with this international negotiation project. This book is written by two really high-powered, high-level people.

How are we doing on the handouts? This table doesn’t have any here. Rich has come around. Okay, so the idea with this book and you’ll see this in the handout is to use principled negotiation as opposed to taking a position, so not say, “You owe me $1,000,” but to say, “I’m interested in being fairly compensated for what you’ve done to me,” kind of thing. That sounds kind of Wesley, but it’s not actually Wesley technique. It’s analytical and reasonable.

There are four pieces to principled negotiation: people, interests, options, and criteria. Let me try to zoom in on this a little bit ‑ people, interests, options, and criteria. When you’re in a negotiation, when you’re talking with somebody, remember these four pieces because it will help give you some insight on what’s going on.

People: separate the people from the problem. You have a problem between you. You also have somebody there. It’s the difference between “I’m attacking you” versus “I’m trying to solve this problem.”

Interests: focus on what you’re really fundamentally interested in, not on your position. It’s not a number. It’s what you really like at your core, what you need to achieve, and for them, it’s the same. We’ll have an example of that.

Options: create a variety of possibilities. Don’t be stuck to the one thing you entered the conversation with, but really work with someone to figure out what are all the ways we could do this and even throw out some bad ones, so it’s obvious those are bad ones.

Criteria: in your conversation, insist that the result that you’re negotiating for be based on some objective standards, something that can be measured. You know if you’re actually following the rules that you’ve agreed to.

People tend to think about negotiations as either hard or soft. Either I’m a hard-ass and I’m going to do it this way or I’m a real softie, I’m just going to bend over when they ask for anything.

Under a principled negotiation technique like this book teaches, you don’t make or demand concessions. You don’t give up your position easily or dig in your heels. You don’t enforce one-sided losses, and you don’t try to get victory for yourself. It’s a little different.

All right, so let’s do an example of principled versus positional negotiation. I’m going to reach up here, and we’re going to read a little thing for you. There is one of these per table. This is the sheet with the stripes on it. There’s one per table. I’m going to make this available on the website, but if you don’t have a sheet in your hands, you can listen to Rich and I.

This is a real example from the book. This guy, Tom, parks his car and a dump truck on its way to construction site smashes into him and totals it. The car was insured. Tom calls an adjuster and he tries to get compensation for his car. Tom takes a principled approach to negotiation. That’s going to be played by Rich, and I’m the insurance adjuster, and I’m going to take a position. I’m not arguing on the basis of principles. I’m taking a position. All right, is the scenario clear? Questions about the scenario?

All right. The phone rings. Tom picks up. I’m the insurance adjuster and I say, “Well, we studied your case and we have decided that your insurance policy does apply. That means you’re entitled to a settlement of $6,600.”


Rich: “That’s bull! I want more.” [laughter]. Okay, I know. That’s not the approach I’m taking. Okay. “I see. How did you reach that figure?”

Douglas: “Well, that’s how much we decided your car was worth.”

Rich: “I understand. But what standard did you use to determine that amount? Do you know where I can buy a comparable car for that much?”

Douglas: “How much are you asking for?”

Rich: “Whatever I’m entitled to under the policy. I found a second-hand car just like it for $7,700. Adding the sales and excise tax, it would come to about $8,000.”

Douglas: “Eight thousand dollars? That’s too much?”

Rich: “I’m not asking for $8,000, or $6,000, or $10,000, but for fair compensation. Do you agree that it’s only fair that I get enough to replace the car?”

Douglas: “Okay. Here’s what we’ll do. I’ll offer you $7,000. That’s the highest I can go, company policy.”

Rich: “How does the company figure that?”

Douglas: “Look, seven thousand dollars is all you’re going to get. Take it or leave it.”

Rich: “Seven thousand dollars maybe fair. I don't know. I certainly understand your position if you’re bound by company policy, but unless you can state objectively why that amount is what I’m entitled to, I think I’ll do better in court. I will study the matter and talk with you again. Is Wednesday the 11th a good time?”

Douglas: “Yeah.” Okay, so fast forward to Wednesday the 11th, I call him back up again and with my positional approach, right? I say, “Okay, Mr. Griffith, Mr. Tom here. I’ve got an ad here in today’s paper offering an ’89 Taurus for $6,800.”

Rich: “I see. What did it say about the mileage?”

Douglas: “Forty-nine thousand. Why?”

Rich: “Because mine had only 25,000 miles. How many dollars does that increase the worth in your books?”

Douglas: “Well, let me see…$450.”

Rich: “Assuming the $6,800 is one possible base that brings the figure to $7,250. Does the ad say anything about an iPad input?”

Douglas: “No.”

Rich: “How much extra for that in your book?”

Douglas: “One twenty five.”

Rich: “How much for cruise control?”

Douglas: And so on and so forth. This real example, the guy negotiated the adjuster off from the start of $6,600 to $8,024. You see the difference? I’m stuck on the numbers, right? I end up getting chipped away at because Rich is using reason to figure out where do my numbers come from, and it turns out I was being arbitrary. Company policy, take it or leave it. That’s not a very reasonable position. The idea with the principled approach is to use these four things – people, interests, options, and criteria – especially in this case the objective criteria to figure out what the right answer should be.

Let me zoom out a little bit here so I can see this thing. Go back to 100 percent. Now everybody should have a copy of this handout in front of them, right?

People is broken into different pieces. It’s their perceptions. It’s their emotions. It’s their communication. It’s the idea of prevention. I want to talk about these bullet points quickly.

Perception is remember that people’s emotions and your own are real and you have to deal with them. This is not about being Mister Spock and super logical. Emotions happen, right? Recognize that. Put yourself in their shoes. We’ll do an example shortly with Rich.

Don’t guess at their intentions. This is a personal failing of mine, especially if I’m afraid or I’m worried about something, I will ascribe motive to someone else based on what I’m afraid of, and they might be coming from a totally different place. Don’t do that. Don’t scapegoat or blame them.

Discuss perceptions openly. Look for opportunities to act inconsistently with that perception. They think you’re a monster, and you do something very nice, you’ve kind of disarmed them because you’re doing something they didn’t expect. They have to reevaluate on their side.

Give them a stake in the outcome by involving them as a participant in the process. If you have a problem with a tenant, you can involve them and hopefully they can help you come up with a solution.

Make sure to remember face-saving. People have their pride and your proposal will have to be consistent with their deep values.

Rich and I will do another example about perception, tenant-landlord perception. Rich is going to play the part of the tenant and he’s just going to be talking about these perceptions, right? As the landlord, I’m going to be talking about mine. We’re not talking to each other. We’re just sharing different perceptions on the same reality, all right. Go ahead.

Rich: “If he thinks I’m Tina, he did not screen very well.” [laughter]

Douglas: I did give the names on the sheet. You see. You still have ‑ probably you don’t have it, but it’s Tina Tenant and Lucy Landlord.

Audience: [unintelligible 0:09:41].

Douglas: Yeah [laughter].

Rich: Tina thinks the rent is already too high.

Douglas: Whereas landlord might not have increased the rent for years.

Rich: “I can’t afford to pay more for housing.”

Douglas: “I can’t afford to operate this property well.”

Rich: “The apartment needs painting.”

Douglas: “The tenant has given the walls heavy wear and tear.”

Rich: “I know people who pay less for a similar apartment.”


Douglas: “Well, I know people who pay more.”

Rich: “Fine. Young people like me can’t afford high rent.”

Douglas: “Young people like this tenant are noisy and tough on an apartment.”

Rich: “The rent should be lower because the neighborhood is rundown.”

Douglas: “Landlords should get together to raise rents, to improve the quality of the neighborhood.”

Rich: I’m surprised no one is applauding [laughter] “I’m desirable and I have no pets.”

Douglas: “That tenant’s stereo drives me crazy.”

Rich: “I always pay the rent whenever she asks for it.”

Douglas: “They never pay the rent until I ask for it.”

Rich: “She is cold and distant and never asked me how things are.”

Douglas: “I’m considerate and I would never intrude on a tenant’s privacy.” Right, so there’s the same reality but different perceptions of it can lead to conflict. That is very important to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and make sure you understand what they’re seeing. Emotion, recognize and understand emotions and your own, right? If you’re really pissed off, and that’s a good time to start a discussion with someone don’t do it whether it’s contractor or a tenant, or a significant other. Just recognize that.

Female Audience 1: All the time?

Douglas: All the time [laughter]. Deep breaths. All right, talk about emotions with the other side. If you’re angry, you can say that and you can safely say, “I feel angry. I’m not saying you’re a jerk, but I feel angry.” That’s irrefutable. Allow the other side to let off steam. Sometimes people just need to vent. Don’t react to emotional outbursts because if they take it up a level and you take it up a level and now you’re shouting.

Use symbolic gestures. This applies more to personal relationships where you’re getting in a fight or there’s something going on, you can say something in a card. You apologize. Give them a hug or whatever. Don’t hug your tenants, but I’m just saying if you have the opportunity to do something symbolically nice, you can take advantage of it and it can do a lot more than words.

The third part of the people problem is communication. Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said. Don’t be thinking about what you’re going to say next. Listen to them and acknowledge what they’re saying.

Speak to be understood and this is very important. Speak without an audience. You will talk differently to me if you’re talking one-on-one than you would if you had a whole bunch of people listening to us. You want to make sure when you’re having a difficult conversation that it’s just you two and nobody is posturing for the crowd.

Speak about yourself. Now that I’ve mentioned this, “I feel discriminated against” is totally different from, “You’re racist.” I feel discriminated whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t matter. I feel it. It’s irrefutable.

Speak for a purpose. If you’re opening your mouth, it has to be to advance things. You can’t say too much especially after someone else has vented [unintelligible 0:12:53] blown-off a whole ton of steam, that is not the right time to restate your position. I’m sure we’ve both been there, and then we kick ourselves afterwards. “Why did I say that?”

All right, finally prevention works best. This comes to the scenarios. You want to be building that relationship like Attorney Caprera said from day 1. You don’t want to try to start implementing some of these conversational techniques and building rapport with people after you’ve already got a problem in front of you. You want to make sure when you do get that problem, you’re looking at the problem and you’re not looking at the people.

All right, there are three more pieces to this.

Interests, so this is interests versus position. That was the first thing we did. I was talking about position and money and Rich was talking about interest, “I’m interested in fair compensation for my car.” You can identify interests by asking why and why not. Why do you want to give $6,000? Why do you need $8,000 kind of thing? Interests; identify the real problem. I’ve used this technique once in actual heated discussion. I used to do government defense contracting work and people were taking positions and I tried to say, “You’re interested in this, and you’re interested in that,” and the whole tone of the room changed. It really works.

Shared interests ‑ when you find them. You’re both interested in completing the project. You’re both interested in making the next round right. They can outweigh unrelated or divergent interests. You might have side things that you’re after, but if you’re after something together, you will come together. This is the essence of why landlords and tenants work together is because they have that shared interest of getting someone in the apartment, being in the apartment. Each side has many interests. You have to not get stuck in one.

The most powerful interests are basic needs, and this is difficult for landlords because when you’re dealing with someone’s shelter, you’re dealing with one of the most fundamental things in their lives. That is why there’s so many laws about it. It’s a powerful interest.

Talk about those. Put that problem before any position. If you go up to a construction site, and you say, “I demand you put a fence here to block the noise,” that’s one thing.

You’re going to start the contractor thinking, “Well, I can’t put in a fence because XYZ,” and they’re thinking of their reasons.


But if you say, “I have a problem. I want some more privacy here because of all these construction workers are looking into my living room,” that’s totally different. You haven’t said, “I know what the answer is.” You said, “I have a problem. Can you help me fix it?”

Acknowledge their interests, too. They have certain things that they’re trying to accomplish. Acknowledge that.

This is a big one: look forward to your purpose, not backward towards the cause of the argument. You find any two people are fighting, you ask them what are you fighting about. They always point back. It’s because, “He said.” It’s because, “She said. It’s never because “I’m trying to achieve this,” but that’s the way you should think about it. What is that you want to achieve in this? If you’ve already got it, then you’re done. If you haven’t, then you can take a reasonable position, but you shouldn’t be arguing about what started it.

Be concrete, but flexible. “I really need this car replaced at fair value.” But what is fair? “I don't know? I mean a Taurus. Another kind of car.” That would work.

Be hard on the problem; really stick to your guns. It’s not about being soft, but be soft on the people.

All right, part 3 of 4: options. This is another personal failing of mine. I’m really quick. There’s a personality type indicator and you can be either judging, or you can be perceiving, or somewhere in the middle. Perceiving people want to collect all the information and make a decision after all the information has come in. Judging people know like that, they’re like, “I’ve already decided what the answer is. I’m a judging person, and I will jump to conclusions even before I have more than one option.”

Don’t do that. Look for options beyond just narrowing the gap. If I say, $6,000 and he says $8,000, there might be other options besides $7,000 in the middle. There might be other things we can do related to what we’re doing together.

Don’t assume it’s a fixed pie. Don’t assume that, “I get more only if you get less.” A lot of times, you can come up with solutions that make both people better off than they were before.

Solve your problem but solve theirs, too, so that in the end you make it easy for them to say, “Yeah, I’m going to be better off here,” and they’re going to be better off here, so it’s easy for them to go along with that decision. That’s the idea.

Finally, objective criteria. This is where we did the example at the very beginning. Better results from avoiding a contest of wills. It’s not I say $6,000 and he says $8,000, and company policy. Well, this is my personal policy. It’s really don’t get into that but be looking at some objective criteria.

All right at the bottom of each page, there’s a “Yes But.” Okay, Attorney Caprera mentioned it if there’s drugs, or alcohol, or they’re nuts, a lot of things don’t work. There’s this concept of a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA. This lets you know what your minimal acceptable negotiation is.

Your BATNA is, “What if everything I’m doing with this person breaks down and I have to walk away? Where does that leave me? Is it $5,000 in attorney’s fees and 6 months in court? If so, that means I’m willing to pay anything to pay up to $5,000 and up to 6 months to get this person out right now.” All right, that’s the BATNA.

If the other side’s Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement is stronger than yours, you want to avoid a gunfight whenever possible, and that’s where this technique really becomes important. If they’re being unreasonable and they have a better fallback than you do, you got to try to reach them somehow. What do you do? You try to do what Rich did in that example on being objective like what do you say that and not get emotional. That example is kind of like super intellectual. Maybe you don’t use those words, but that’s the idea of it.

If that doesn’t work, the book talks about this negotiation jujitsu where you take a personal tack. You’re a landlord. You’re crazy. You’re a horrible person and you turn it into an attempt to solve the problem. Maybe if I am being a little unfair here, but if I did this, I mean what would you think about that kind of thing. Try to take what they’re doing, they’re craziness, and turn it into a way to solve the problem together.

Then call in a third-party mediator. There’s one text approach. The third-party mediator is going to be working on an agreement that you both worked towards, and he’ll get opinions from you and from the other side and he’ll go through like four or five revisions. At the end of it, he’ll be saying, “This is the best that I can do. Take it or leave it.” Now he gives each side a very clear choice, so it’s directed at the other; directed at the mediator instead and they say, “Yes or no. Is this okay.”

Usually by that point, people are okay with it because they’re not head-to-head anymore. There’s a third person involved. That’s what you can hope for, but people are still going to throw dirty tricks at you and the book talks about this at the end as well.

Dirty tricks include the following long list: phony facts like being dishonest; ambiguous authority like you’re negotiating with me but I’m not the final decision maker; dubious intentions, “I’m telling you I want to do this but really I have an ulterior motive other than the one I have told you.” Less than full disclosure, so again dishonesty.


Stressful environment. Have you noticed sometimes you can throw somebody off by putting them and having a conversation in a noisy place? Some people even they put in little chairs across from their desk or wobbly chairs or something. They’re trying to make people uncomfortable. These things really work and if you find that you’re in a stressful environment like what we said earlier, if you can’t take the call because you’re not in the mindset, don’t do it then.

Personal attacks that’s a good one. That’s a dirty trick to get somebody off their game.

Playing good cop bad cop, and beating somebody up and having somebody else come in to clean up the wreckage. That works sometimes but that’s considered dirty tricks. A dirty trick is if you knew that what happening to you, will the outcome be the same in the negotiation? The answer is no. With good cop bad cop, if you knew that’s what the plan was, they would not like that.

Threats, refusal to negotiate outright, extreme demands, escalating demands, lock-in tactics – “You decide now or it’s going to get worse for you later.”

Blaming a hard-hearted partner: “I would go along with that landlord but my wife, my husband is just so mean. They’re not going to go with that.”

Threats, ultimatums, calculated delays, and take-it-or-leave-it stuff – those are all dirty tactics. You want to try to avoid those because it tends to make things worse.

All right, any questions about the general outline? We’re going to go pick through some examples here in our last few minutes and talk about some, but questions before we do?

Audience: [unintelligible 0:21:44] little dog.

Douglas: No threats. “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too.” [laughter].

Audience: [unintelligible 0:21:55].

Douglas: Okay, on the table, you should have some scenarios that look like this: discussion scenarios. I’d like you to spend 4 minutes ‑ I’m going to time it here – talking with the folks at your table about these different areas. Now I’ve given you a lot to think about. You don’t have to hit all of these points, but the idea is what are the likely perceptions that the landlord and tenant have in this scenario? What are they really interested in with this little conflict? What are some of the options for mutual gain? What are the criteria we could use to measure whether this conversation is heading in the right direction? If you like, what are some phrases that will be helpful? What are some phrases that will be harmful? What could you say to deescalate or deal with this and what could you say to make things really worse.

Let’s do scenario 1 because I know it’s relevant and I look at time and we’ll probably jump to [unintelligible 0:22:52] major thing at the end. All right, so the tenant emails the landlord, “Hi, Lindsay Landlord, I have bad news. We’re a little short this month. They changed my pay schedule and our daughter got braces, which costs a fortune. We’ll pay twice as much next month. Thanks, Tina Tenant.”

Okay, so what are the likely perceptions at work and what are the interests to the landlord and tenant? You should have some blank sheets. There should be two at the table.

Female Audience 2: We don’t have any.

Douglas: You don’t have any sheets? Do people have sheets that look like this? No?

Audience: Oh, yeah. Right here. Right here. Right here.

Douglas: I think you should have them.

Female Audience 2: [unintelligible 0:23:34].

Douglas: Okay so go ahead and have your discussions, and then we’ll circle back and get some room feedback after 4 minutes.

Female Audience 3: Can you put that back up on the screen?

[End 0:24:01]