The Negotiator Magazine

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A New ICON for Negotiation Advice

Grande Lum and Anthony Wanis-St. John

Two decades after the original publication of Getting to YES, by Roger Fisher and William Ury, the conflict resolution classic is still unrivaled in providing a succinct prescriptive framework for turning rivals into collaborators (Fisher and Ury). Their method of principled negotiation remains one of the most powerful influences on the study and practice of negotiation within academia, government, civil society and the business world (Susskind and Cruikshank).

Getting to YES provides a flexible prescription for improving social interaction. It empowers individuals with practical tools for transforming conflict into opportunity. Individuals from all walks of life have learned to separate people from problems, focus on interests and not positions, use objective criteria to develop fair and satisfactory options for both sides, and to identify their best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA).

Getting to YES has been the foundation of our professional mediation, facilitation and training work. Drawing on our experience, in this article we will introduce the ICON teaching tool that our clients find useful for preparing for difficult negotiations.

Negotiation research and practice is necessarily multidisciplinary and diverse. An enormous literature has emerged from the field, and there are now numerous organizations dedicated to the resolution of conflict in accordance with the principles first set forth in Getting to YES. The clients we work with — business executives, companies, labor unions and other groups — want to improve their negotiation skills and come to us for prescriptive negotiation advice.

Prescriptive advice on mastering collaborative negotiation continues to be highly relevant to people facing business, professional and personal challenges. Both experimental studies and case studies suggest that people with collaborative negotiation training obtain better outcomes than those without such training (Bazerman & Neale, 112).

Our clients tell us they are weary of having to choose between caving in and sacrificing relationship in their most critical negotiations. And as users of negotiation advice grow in number and experience, the demand for simple, elegant and useful frameworks only increases.

To make a lasting impact on how our clients conduct business and resolve conflicts, our prescriptive advice must prove its worth in the real world, in real negotiation situations. Many individuals and organizations we work with confront persistent, overt manipulation and aggressive tactics. Moreover, constituent pressures and psychological barriers even further hinder their reaching their objectives (Arrow et al.; Kelman). In such contexts, parties find it hard to accomplish negotiation tasks such as creating and distributing value. In the absence of negotiation expertise or facilitation, they are more likely to respond in kind to manipulative or hostile tactics, and this often leads to poor, lopsided outcomes and damaged relationships.

Even when parties begin from a collaborative perspective, they are in danger of resigning themselves to "playing the game" according to a non-collaborative set of assumptions. As a result, manipulative and positional behaviors re-emerge. Clients increasingly approach us with the desire not to conduct business-as-usual. They claim they want win-win relationships in both their personal and professional lives. These two learning challenges — acquisition of critical skills, and ability to employ principled negotiation strategies even when under attack or facing other barriers — help define our approach to teaching and consulting.

Participants must be able to quickly access relevant lessons and principles and apply them appropriately. The quality of negotiation training — in particular the underlying pedagogy — is a key factor in the transfer of skills. A critical challenge facing negotiation students is taking abstract negotiation concepts and applying them to real world problems (Gillespie, Thompson, Loewenstein and Gentner). In order to improve their negotiation skills, participants must be able to quickly put training and advice into practice, and to learn from past negotiation experiences.

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