Getting to Yes: A Best-Selling Book Provides Conflict Resolution Tools for the New Year

Updated: Feb 25

Since its original publication in 1981, the book Getting to Yes has created a substantial impact across the globe. Millions of copies have been sold, and it has been published in more than thirty different languages. Lawyer and Dispute Resolution expert, Carrie Menkel-Meadow, praised the book for “revolutionizing how negotiation is taught in schools, business, public policy and planning, and international relations and government departments.” Various professional fields have relied on the publication to help with negotiation processes, and several spin-off books were released in the years following. The book introduces the concept of “Principled Negotiation” that focuses on people’s interests rather than their positions. The theory aims to shift a conflict dynamic from being “against each other” to “working with each other.” Here are the book’s four core “Principled Negotiation” points and tips for handling conflict amongst group and teams:


1. Separate the person from the problem. Take some time to step away from emotions or grievances and lucidly assess the issue at hand. When we focus on feelings and storylines around a problem, we often can’t see the full picture.

2. Focus on interests, not positions. We all have interests, which can be tangible (money, materials) or intangible (recognition, validation). It’s important to not only understand your own interests, but also tune into the interests of others. Although they may not be clear at first, and can become convoluted with mixed messages and emotions, getting to the core of interests can help communication run more smoothly. It is clinging to “positions” that prevent people from working out conflict. Holding onto one idea, narrative, or solution lowers the possibility to find a mutual resolution to a problem.


3. Invent options for a mutual gain. Attempt to find a “win-win” solution that works for both sides. This creates a more harmonious work environment vs. a “win-lose” situation that can feed ongoing rivalry and conflict.


4. Seek objective information. The best example of this principle is when selling a car, it’s helpful to refer to the Kelley Blue Book. This provides a market value, and you can base your negotiations off the criteria. This reiterates the idea of focusing on interests, not positions. Find objective information to support your interests and professionally present it to the other person. From there, you can continue a dialogue and find solutions that work for both sides.




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