Getting Past No – The Five Steps of Breakthrough Negotiation

Excerpt from Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations by William Ury

Whether you are negotiating with your boss, a hostage-taker, or your teenager, the basic principles remain the same. In summary, the five steps of breakthrough negotiation are:

1. Go to the Balcony. The first step is not to control the other person’s behavior. It is to control your own. When the other person says no or launches an attack, you may be stunned into giving in or counterattacking. So suspend your reaction by naming the game. Then buy yourself time to think. Use the time to reflect about your interests and your BATNA. Throughout the negotiation, keep your eyes on the prize. Instead of getting mad or getting even, focus on getting what you want. Don’t react: Go to the balcony.

2. Step to Their Side. Before you can negotiate, you need to create a favorable climate. You need to defuse the anger, fear, hostility, and suspicion on the other side. They expect you to attack or to resist. So do the opposite. Listen to them, acknowledge their points, and agree with them wherever you can. Acknowledge their authority and competence too. Don’t argue: Step to their side.

3. Reframe. The next challenge is to change the game. When the other side takes a hard-line position, you may be tempted to reject it, but this usually only leads them to dig in further. Instead direct their attention to the challenge of meeting each side’s interests. Take whatever they say and reframe it as an attempt to deal with the problem. Ask problem-solving questions, such as “Why is it that you want that?” or “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” or “What if we were to…?” Rather than trying to teach the other side yourself, let the problem be their teacher. Reframe their tactics, too, by going around their stone walls, deflecting their attacks, and exposing their tricks. Don’t reject: Reframe.

4. Build Them a Golden Bridge. At last you’re ready to negotiate. The other side, however, may stall, not yet convinced of the benefits of agreement. You may be tempted to push and insist, but this will probably lead them to harden and resist. Instead, do the opposite—draw them in the direction you would like them to go. Think of yourself as a mediator whose job is to make it easy for them to say yes. Involve them in the process, incorporating their ideas. Try to identify and satisfy their unmet interests, particularly their basic human needs. Help them save face and make the outcome appear as a victory for them. Go slow to go fast. Don’t push: Build them a golden bridge.

5. Use Power to Educate. If the other side still resists and thinks they can win without negotiating, you need to educate them to the contrary. You need to make it hard for them to say no. You could use threats and force, but these often backfire; if you push them into a corner, they will likely lash out, throwing even more resources into the fight against you. Instead, educate them about the costs of not agreeing. Ask reality-testing questions, warn rather than threaten, and demonstrate your BATNA. Use it only if necessary, and minimize their resistance by exercising restraint and reassuring them that your goal is mutual satisfaction, not victory. Make sure they know the golden bridge is always open. Don’t escalate: Use power to educate.

Ury, William (2007-04-17). Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations

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