PON: Getting to Yes With Yourself – A Book Talk By William Ury

On January 22nd, 2015, the Program on Negotiation was pleased to welcome back William Ury to Harvard Law School. Ury, a founding member of the Program on Negotiation and co-author of the seminal book Getting to Yes, spoke about his latest book,Getting to Yes with Yourself (and Other Worthy Opponents). Over 250 community members, students, and faculty members filled Austin Hall to hear Ury speak about the negotiations that need to happen with oneself before going to the table to negotiate with others.

To hear all six steps to getting to yes with yourself, watch the full-length video:

Ury is a well-known and highly regarded negotiator and mediator. His work has previously focused primarily on external negotiations, and he has often highlighted the need to “go to the balcony” during these negotiations. This moment of removed reflection is meant to help individuals understand their feelings and motivations, and ponder the feelings and motivations of those with whom they are negotiating. In Getting to Yes with Yourself, Ury highlights the importance of “going to the balcony” with oneself. By taking time to focus on our feelings and motivations prior to entering a negotiation, we can better understand what drives us during interpersonal negotiations. This in turn can led to healthier relationships, in and out of the office.

Ury highlighted this practice through several compelling anecdotes. The most riveting accounting Ury shared was of his time spent with Venezuelan President Huge Chavez. About a decade ago, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter requested that Ury assist in the peace process in Venezuela, as international audiences feared a growing and sustained conflict in South America. Ury agreed, and met with Chavez and his entire cabinet around midnight one night. Chavez asked for Ury’s view on the current situation, which Ury shared. Yet Ury’s response did not please Chavez. The President angrily replied to Ury in a 30-minute tirade, during which time Ury was somehow able to go to his mental “balcony.” He appraised the situation, the moment he was in, and his own interests. Once he saw Chavez relax and finally open back up to conversation, Ury offered a suggestion that satisfied Chavez and led to ongoing peace talks.

Ury’s many incredible experiences in the field supplied him with copious amounts of information on how an individual can make their negotiations more productive and successful. He codified these experiences into six steps that any person can use to get to yes with himself or herself. These included developing an inner BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) and reframing the situation one is in. His talk was met with
resounding applause, and was followed by a lively Q&A session.

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