High-Level Thoughts

The best book on negotiation and effective argumentation. Useful even if you’re not in business, since in some form, you’re always negotiating.

Summary Notes

Any method of negotiation should be judged by three criteria:

  • It should produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible
  • It should be efficient
  • And it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties

The more you clarify your position and defend it against attack, the more committed you become to it

Arguing over positions is inefficient

Arguing over positions endangers an ongoing relationship

When there are many parties, positional bargaining is even worse

“Being Nice” isn’t the answer either

The Straightforward, Principled, Negotiation Method

People: Separate the people from the problem

  • Negotiators are people first
  • Every negotiator has an interest in the result, and in the relationship
  • To work through people problems, think in terms of: Perception, Emotion, and Communication


  • The ability to see the situation from the other side is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess
  • Look for opportunities to surprise their perceptions, especially if those perceptions put you in a bad light
  • Give them a stake in the outcome by letting them participate in the process
  • Discuss each other’s perceptions
  • Don’t blame them for your problem
  • Make your proposal consistent with their values, and let them save face


  • Recognize and understand emotions, theirs and yours
  • Consider the role of identity, understand if their identity is threatened
  • Emotions are always legitimate
  • Allow them to let off steam if necessary
  • Don’t react to emotional outbursts
  • Use symbolic gestures (gift giving, etc.) to show empathy


  • Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said
  • Speak to be understood, talk to every side of the disagreement
  • Speak about yourself, not about them. Don’t superimpose your impressions on them
  • Speak for a purpose, don’t waste breath

Prevention is the best method

  • Build a strong working relationship, be friends outside of the negotiation
  • Face the problem, not the people. Don’t view the other side as adversaries

Interests: Focus on interests, not positions

  • For a wise solution, reconcile interests, not positions
  • Interests define what the problem is
  • Your positions are something you have decided upon, your interests are what caused you to decide

How do you identify interests?

  • Ask “Why?” put yourself in their shoes and try to figure out how they arrived at their positions
  • Ask “Why not?” what interests of theirs stand in the way of your decision? Why do they not want what you want?
  • Realize that both sides have multiple interests
  • Most powerful interests are basic human needs (Maslow’s Pyramid)

Talking about interests

  • If you want the other side to consider your interests, you must explain what those interests are
  • Acknowledge their interests and that you understand them
  • Put the problem before your answer, give your interests and reasoning first and your conclusions or proposals later
  • Look forward, not back. Sometimes we argue for no reason, or purpose
  • Be hard on the problem, but soft on the people
  • By attacking the problem, and at the same time giving the person on the other side positive support, you create a cognitive dissonance for him. To overcome this dissonance, he will be tempted to dissociate himself from the problem in order to join you in doing something about it

Options: Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do

  • In most negotiations, there are four major obstacles that inhibit the inventing of an abundance of options:
  • Premature judgement
  • Searching for the single answer
  • The assumption of a fixed pie
  • Thinking that “solving their problem is their problem”

To invent creative options, then you will need to:

  • Separate the act of inventing options from the act of judging them

Before you brainstorm

  • Define your purpose: think about what you want to walk out of the meeting with
  • Choose a few participants
  • Change the environment
  • Design an informal atmosphere
  • Choose a facilitator: someone who can keep the meeting on track, make sure everyone can speak, enforce ground rules, and stimulate discussion

During brainstorming

  • Seat everyone side by side facing the problem
  • Clarify the ground rules, and outlaw criticism of any kind
  • Brainstorm
  • Record the ideas in full view

After brainstorming

  • Star the most promising idea: relax the no-criticism rule to begin winnowing out the most promising ideas
  • Invent improvements for promising ideas: make it as attractive as you can
  • Set up a time to evaluate ideas and decide

Brainstorm with the other side too

Broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer

Search for mutual gains

Identify shared interests

  • Shared interests are latent in every negotiation
  • Shared interests are opportunities, not godsends. You have to make something out of them
  • Stressing your shared interests can make the negotiation smoother and more amicable

Dovetail differing interests

  • Different beliefs? Different values placed on time? Different forecasts? Differences in aversion to risk?
  • Look for items that are of low cost to you, and high benefit to them, and vice versa

Invent ways of making their decisions easy

  • It is usually easier to refrain from doing something not being done than to stop action already underway. It is easier to cease doing something than to undertake an entirely new course of action.
  • Few things facilitate a decision as much as precedent

Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard

  • Deciding on the basis of Will is costly
  • Use objective criteria instead
  • Principled negotiation produces wise agreements amicably and effectively

Developing objective criteria

  • Develop fair standards for evaluation
  • Use fair procedures for resolving the conflicting interests

Negotiating with Objective Criteria

  • Frame each issue as a search for objective criteria
  • Ask for the theory behind positions “How did you arrive at that price?”
  • Agree on principles first
  • Reason and be open to reason as to which standards are most appropriate and how they should be applied
  • Never yield to pressure, only to principle

Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement

The cost of using a bottom line

  • It keeps you from being more inventive with solutions
  • It can sometimes prevent you from making an advantageous decision

Know your BATNA

  • If you can’t sell your house, will you rent it? Tear it down and sell the lot? Keep it on the market indefinitely?

Formulate a trip-wire to activate your BATNA

Develop your BATNA

  • Invent a list of actions you might take if no agreement is reached
  • Improve some of the more promising ideas and convert them into practical alternatives
  • Select, tentatively, the one idea that seems best
  • Always consider the other side’s BATNA

Negotiation Jujitsu, for When They Won’t Play

How do you prevent the cycle of action and reaction? Don’t push back

  • Avoid pitting your strength against them directly; instead, use your skill to step aside and turn their strength to your ends

Do not attack their position, look behind it

  • Assume every position is a genuine attempt to address the basic concerns of both sides
  • Seek out and discuss the principles underlying their position
  • Discuss what would happen if one of their positions were accepted. Sometimes framing it in this way can show its weaknesses

Don’t defend your ideas, invite criticism and advice

  • Ask them what’s wrong with your idea
  • Ask for their advice, or what they would do in your situation

Recast an attack on you as an attack on the problem

  • If they attack you personally, resist the temptation to defend yourself or to attack back
  • Let them let off steam

Ask questions and pause

  • Use questions instead of statements

What if they use dirty tricks?

Deliberate deception

Phony facts

  • Make the negotiation proceed independent of trustVerify factual assertions as you go

Ambiguous authority

  • Ask just how much authority they have on this matter

Dubious Intentions

  • Pretending to be in support of one thing to convince you of another

Psychological Warfare

Stressful situations

  • If you find the situation prejudicial, say so, and try to change it

Personal attacks

  • If you’re being personally attacked, bring it up explicitly

Good guy/Bad guy routine


  • Good negotiators do not resort to threats
  • Warnings are much more legitimate, so long as they are backed by the reality of the situation

Positional pressure tactics

Refusal to negotiate

  • Recognize this as a possible ploy to get some concession from you
  • Talk about their refusal to negotiate. Why do they not want to?
  • Insist on using principles

Extreme demands

  • Ask for principled justification of that stance to show them how ridiculous it is

Escalating demands

  • Call it to their attention, and stop negotiations for a bit. Insist on principles to make it more serious

Lock-in tactic

  • One side entirely locks in their positionIgnore the lock in, talk about the principles, and let them back down and save face

“Take it or leave it”

  • Ignore it, and then draw attention to it as a problem

Don’t be a victim

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