Winning Within And With Others

Getting to Yes with Yourself book cover

The most powerful change you can make in life is to change that inner attitude from ‘no’ to ‘yes.’

Your aim in business and life is always to get to “yes.” But the biggest obstacle to achieving that, as William Ury, co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, has discovered, isn’t always the tough individual on the other side of the negotiation table, but the person in the mirror. It turns out that the most difficult act of finding the middle ground or moving to the win-win-win platform largely depends on you.

In his book Getting To Yes With Yourself, Ury shares a graceful, basic but not necessarily trouble-free six-step approach for getting what you truly want out of life. The strategies and lessons communicated in his reader-friendly tome can be useful in every circumstance, whether it’s negotiating for a raise in compensation, running a business, directing a career change, or building healthy professional and personal dealings.

Ury writes that very little in life may be under your full control, but the choice between “yes” and “no” is yours to make at any moment. You can choose to say “yes” or “no” to yourself, to be either your best ally or your worst opponent. You can choose to say “yes “or “no” to life, to treat life either as friend or foe. You can choose to say “yes” or “no” to others, to relate to them either as possible partners or implacable allies. And your choices make all the difference. You can choose well by considering these:

Put yourself in your shoes. “Know thyself? If I knew myself, I’d run away,” German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe says. Knowing yourself helps you become your friend rather than your opponent when it comes to negotiating with others, and not only in understanding and accepting yourself just as you are. If self-judgment is a “no” to self, self-acceptance is a “yes,” and perhaps the greatest gift you can give yourself.  You might worry that accepting yourself as you are will diminish the motivation to make positive changes, but it has been discovered that the exact opposite is usually true. Acceptance can create the sense of safety within which you can more easily face a problem and work on it.  As Carl Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, notes: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change.”

Develop your inner BATNA. On his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl wrote, “I saw too many people give away their last morsel of food, their last sip of water to others in need to know that no one can take away the last of our human freedoms — the freedom to choose our own way, in whatever circumstances.” Your greatest source of power in a negotiation is your BATNA — Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. It is your best course of action towards satisfying your interests if you cannot reach agreement with the other side.  The key lesson is that responsibility equals power — the power to meet your deepest needs. In the end, each of us is faced with a basic choice of attitude. If blaming essentially means giving away your power and thus saying “no” to yourself, taking responsibility means reclaiming your power and thus saying “yes” to yourself. By giving up the blame game and assuming responsibility for your relationships and your needs, you can go right to the root of the conflict and take the lead in transforming your negotiations and your life.

Reframe your picture. American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaims, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” Remember your astonishing human capacity to reframe the picture: to remember your connection with life, to find happiness even in what may seem like small things, and to appreciate life’s lessons. Life can be extremely challenging at times, but you can choose whether or not to see the challenges as being ultimately in your favor. You can choose to learn from these challenges, even the most difficult ones. Frankl eloquently states that you have the power to choose your basic attitude towards life, which then directly influences your attitude towards others. Instead of saying “no” to life, seeing life as unfriendly, you can choose to say “yes” to life, seeing life as your friend. In making this fundamental choice, you are able to shape your life, your relationships, and your negotiations for the better.

Stay in the zone. “He who lives not in time, but in the present is happy,” Ludwig Von Wittgenstein, Austrian-British philosopher, avers. Accepting life means saying “yes” to the past, letting go of lingering resentments and grievances. It means saying yes to the future, letting go of your needless worries and replacing fear with trust. And it means saying yes to the present, letting go of your expectations   and appreciating what you have in the moment. It is not always easy, of course. It takes strength to forgive the past, courage to trust the future, and disciplined focus to stay present in the midst of life’s constant problems and distractions. But however great the challenge, the rewards of inner contentment, satisfying agreements, and healthy relationships are much greater.

Respect them even if. American poet Edwin Markham notes, “He drew a circle that shut me out — heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle that took him in!” It may not be easy to change the dynamic of a difficult interaction or relationship from antagonism and rejection to respect, particularly when you feel under attack, but the rewards are great. By showing respect, you are more likely to receive respect. By accepting, you are more to likely be accepted. By including, you are more likely to be included. If you can say yes to the basic dignity of others, getting to “yes” becomes a lot easier and your relationships at home, work, and in the world become far more productive and satisfying.

Give and receive. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, in his work Man and Superman, says, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by you as a mighty one. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.” Each one of the six steps helps you transform the win-lose mindset into a win-win-win mindset. The crowning move is to shift your basic underlying attitude from taking to giving. At first you may give in order to receive, then you learn to give without receiving a direct return, and finally you learn to give in fulfillment of your purpose. By changing your basic default mode to giving, not only can you get to “yes” with yourself, experiencing inner satisfaction, but you will also find it easier to get to “yes” with others, achieving outer success. Thus begins a circle of giving and receiving that has no end.

The most powerful change you can make in life is to change that inner attitude from “no” to “yes.” Ury says, “Getting to ‘yes’ with yourself makes possible three kinds of wins — a win within, a win with others, and a win for the whole.”

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