Principled negotiation was developed as a part of the Harvard Program on Negotiation by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury and Bruce Patton and it was first explained in the book Getting to Yes: Negotiation Agreement Without Giving In. The purpose of this type ofnegotiation is to help to reach agreement without jeopardizing the business relations. Fisher, Ury and Patton refer to this kind of agreement as a wise agreement. Wise agreement is agreement that meets the interests of both parties to the extent possible, is long lasting, and also considers the interests of the larger society. The basis of this negotiation principle is to separate the relationship issues from the problem issues, to focus on interests not on positions, while trying to be creative in developing solutions.
Separate people from the problem
Usually when negotiating, people tend to get personally involved with the issues in question and preoccupied with their own positions. They consider attacks on those positions as personal attacks. The principle of separating people from the problem helps to reach a solution while minimizing damage to relationships. There are three types of the people problems:
- Perceptions: Conflicts usually arise because of differing interpretations of facts. Both parties should try to put themselves in the other party’s place, and they should try not to blame the other party for the problem. Both parties should make proposals which will appeal to both sides.
- Emotions: Fear and anger are likely to arise when someone’s interests are threatened. Acknowledging the emotions of the other party is a step closer to reaching a successful agreement. Small symbolic gestures and expression of empathy can help to defuse emotions.
- Communication: People may not be speaking to each other, or not in a way to understand each other. Also, one party may plan his or her responses while the other party is speaking and not listen to the other party. Finally, even if they are communicating, misunderstandings can arise. Both parties should listen actively and often summarize what is being said. It is also important to speak to be understood, to speak about oneself, and to speak with a purpose.
Focus on interests not on positions
Rather than focusing on positions parties should focus on interests. As Fisher and Ury point out in the book: “Your position is something you have decided upon. Your interests are what caused you to so decide.” By focusing on interests it is more likely that parties will find a solution. It is important to identify each party’s interests and to be aware that the most powerful interests are basic human needs such as security, economic well being, etc. After identifying interests, the parties should discuss them. It is important to speak clearly about one’s own interests and to listen and acknowledge the interests of the other party. Discussion should not be exclusively focused on past events, and both parties should be flexible and open to new ideas while keeping their own interests in focus.
Invent the options for mutual gain
The authors identify four obstacles to inventing the options for mutual gain:
- Premature judgment: deciding on one option and failing to consider the alternatives
- Searching for one single answer
- The assumption of a fixed pie: assuming there is only a win/lose solution
- Thinking that “solving their problem is their problem”
The authors also propose four ways to overcome these obstacles:
- Separate invention process from decision making
- Broaden your options
- Search for mutual gains
- Invent ways of making their decision easy
The process of inventing should be in an informal atmosphere where the both parties sit together and brainstorm about possible solutions. Wild and creative ideas should be encouraged. After the list of possible options is made, parties should use a process of evaluation to find the most promising options. It is helpful to look for shared interests and also to create options which are appealing to other side and which they find easy to agree with.
Insist on using objective criteria
Making decisions by using objective criteria may help reach a solution while preserving a good relationship, especially when the interests are directly opposed. As a first step it is important to develop objective criteria which are the best for the situation in question. Parties can choose their criteria from among different scientific findings, professional standards, legal precedents, etc. It is important that the criteria are legitimate and practical. Three points should be kept in mind when using the objective criteria:
- Each issue should be defined as a joint search for objective criteria
- Each party should have an open mind and be reasonable
- Never give in to pressure, threats or bribes
Successful real-life negotiations
- “About the Harvard Negotiation Project”. Program on Negotiation Harvard Law School. April 19, 2009. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
- Gladel, Florence (July 1, 2012). “The Harvard Principled Negotiation”. The World of Collaborative Practice. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
- Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. (2012). Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Third Edition. London: Random House, p. 4
- Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. (2012). Getting to Yes: negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Third Edition. London: Random House, pp. 19–41
- Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. (2012). Getting to Yes: negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Third Edition. London: Random House, pp. 42
- Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. (2012). Getting to Yes: negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Third Edition. London: Random House, pp. 42–57
- Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. (2012). Getting to Yes: negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Third Edition. London: Random House, pp. 58–81
- Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. (2012). Getting to Yes: negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Third Edition. London: Random House, pp. 82–95
- “Roger D. Fisher, Expert at Getting to Yes, dies at 90”. New York Times. August 27, 2012. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- Fisher, Roger, and Scott Brown (1988). Getting Together: Building Relationships As We Negotiate. New York: Viking/Penguin.
- Fisher, Roger, and Danny Ertel (1995). Getting Ready to Negotiate: The Getting to Yes Workbook. Boston: Penguin Books.
- Fisher, Roger, Alan Sharp, and John Richardson (1999), Getting It Done: How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge. New York: Harper Business.
- Fisher, Roger, and Daniel Shapiro (2005). Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate. New York: Viking/Penguin.
- Stone, Douglas, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen (1999). Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. New York: Viking.
- Stone, Douglas, and Sheila Heen (2014). Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. New York: Viking.
- Ury, William (1991). Getting Past No: Negotiating with Difficult People. New York: Bantam Books.
- Ury, William (2000). The Third Side: Why We Fight and How We Can Stop. New York: Penguin Books.
- Ury, William (2007). The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes. New York: Bantam Books.