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Summary: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury

Avoid a long, drawn-out negotiation and preserve the relationship between you and the person you’re negotiating with by using the following set of negotiating principles:

“Standard strategies for negotiation often leave people dissatisfied, worn out, or alienated—and frequently all three.” – Getting to Yes

Try on Their View

“(The people you negotiate) have egos that are easily threatened. They see the world from their own personal vantage point, and they frequently confuse their perceptions with reality. Routinely, they fail to interpret what you say in the way you intend and do not mean what you understand them to say. Misunderstanding can reinforce prejudice and lead to reactions that produce counterreactions in a vicious circle; rational exploration of possible solutions becomes impossible and a negotiation fails.” – Getting to Yes

At the start of a negotiation, try on the other side’s point of view:

  • Imagine how the other person arrived at their position and why they want what they want.
  • Feel the pressure they’re under to win the negotiation – their boss doesn’t want them to compromise or their wife is pressuring them to get the best deal possible.
  • Then summarize their position in a way that satisfies them, by saying, “Let me see if I can summarize your position…”

If you’re an office manager in a salary negotiation, show your employee you understand their position by saying, “Let me see if I can summarize your position: you want a larger raise than the standard 5% annual raise because you’ve hit all your annual targets and you feel like you’re taking on harder projects than most people in the office.”

With some back and forth clarification, your employee will feel understood and more inclined to work with you to develop a mutually beneficial agreement.

Book Summary: Getting to Yes - Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Invent a Win-Win Agreement

You and your friend both want the last lemon in the fridge – the whole lemon. Instead of compromising and cutting the lemon in half, you focus on your interests and discover that your friend wants the lemon to add lemon zest to her cake recipe, and you want the lemon to add lemon juice to your water. Due to your differences, you both get what you want without compromising! Zest the lemon for her, and then juice the lemon for yourself.

“Agreement is often based on disagreement. It is as absurd to think, for example, that you should always begin by reaching agreement on the facts as it is for a buyer of stock to try to convince the seller that the stock is likely to go up. If they did agree that the stock would go up, the seller would probably not sell. What makes a deal likely is that the buyer believes the price will go up and the seller believes it will go down. The difference in belief provides the basis for a deal.” – Getting to Yes

To invent a win-win agreement, focus on how values, believes, and interests differ. What does one party care more about than the other (immediate gain, long-term opportunity, saving money, building a relationship, results, etc.)?

Insist on Using Objective Criteria

If you can’t reach a mutually beneficial agreement, act like a judge, and insist on using objective criteria to decide your case.

Let’s say you got in a car accident and totaled your car, and your insurance adjuster’s final offer is $5,000. That isn’t enough to replace your car. The insurance adjuster doesn’t want to negotiate and insists he is following company policy.

To settle the dispute, you insist on using objective criteria and ask: “What’s your basis?” and “How did you arrive at that figure?”

If he insists it’s company policy, find three comparable used cars to determine fair market value, reference the ‘blue book’ standard value for your car’s make, model, and year, and look up past settlements to determine how much a court may award you in a settlement case.

When your negotiation reaches an impasse or you’re being bullied into an agreement, it’s helpful to ask: “How would a court decide this?” Research standards, existing precedent, cultural norms, or a list of experts who can objectively arbitrate the negotiation.

“Any method of negotiation may be fairly judged by three criteria: It should produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible. It should be efficient. And it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties.” – Getting to Yes



“Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” is a seminal book on negotiation, written by Roger Fisher and William Ury. First published in 1981, this book has been a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their negotiation skills, from business professionals to diplomats and everyone in between. In this review, we’ll delve into the key concepts, strengths, and weaknesses of the book, and provide an objective assessment of its overall value.

The four steps are:

  1. Separate the people from the problem. This means focusing on the issue at hand, rather than getting personal with the other party.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions. What are the underlying interests of each party? What do they really want to achieve?
  3. Invent options for mutual gain. Don’t just focus on your own position, but try to find solutions that will benefit both parties.
  4. Insist on objective criteria. Use fair and impartial standards to evaluate the options and reach an agreement.

Key Concepts:

  • Separate the people from the problem: Fisher and Ury emphasize the importance of distinguishing between the people involved in a negotiation and the problem at hand. This separation helps to reduce emotions and promote a more constructive discussion.
  • Focus on interests, not positions: The authors advocate for focusing on the underlying interests and needs of the parties, rather than their respective positions. By doing so, negotiators can often find creative solutions that satisfy both parties.
  • Generate a range of options: Fisher and Ury suggest that negotiators should work together to generate a variety of potential solutions, rather than becoming fixated on a single outcome. This approach encourages flexibility and increases the likelihood of finding a mutually beneficial agreement.
  • Use objective criteria: The book stresses the importance of using objective criteria, such as industry standards, expert opinions, or market data, to support negotiation positions. This helps to establish credibility and ensure that agreements are fair and reasonable.
  • BATNA and ZOPA: Fisher and Ury introduce the concepts of Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) and Zone of Potential Agreement (ZOPA). BATNA represents the best outcome a party can achieve if the negotiation fails, while ZOPA defines the range of outcomes that are potentially acceptable to both parties. Understanding these concepts helps negotiators assess the feasibility of a deal and avoid making poor agreements.


  • Practical and actionable advice: “Getting to Yes” offers practical guidance that can be applied to a wide range of negotiation scenarios. The book provides concrete strategies and techniques that readers can use to improve their negotiation skills.
  • Accessible and engaging writing style: Fisher and Ury present complex ideas in an accessible and engaging manner, making the book easy to understand and digest. The use of real-world examples and case studies further enhances the reader’s comprehension.
  • Relevant and timeless: Despite being published over 40 years ago, “Getting to Yes” remains relevant in today’s fast-paced, globalized world. The principles outlined in the book are timeless and can be applied to various negotiation contexts, from business deals to international diplomacy.
  • Holistic approach: The book takes a holistic approach to negotiation, considering the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of the process. This comprehensive perspective helps readers better understand the dynamics at play in any negotiation.


  • Lack of attention to power dynamics: While “Getting to Yes” emphasizes the importance of understanding the other party’s interests and needs, it doesn’t adequately address power imbalances in negotiations. The book assumes a relatively equal distribution of power between parties, which may not always be the case in real-world scenarios.
  • Limited discussion of cultural differences: The book primarily focuses on negotiation practices in Western cultures, with limited attention to cultural variations and differences in negotiation styles across the globe. This may leave readers without a complete understanding of how to navigate negotiations in diverse cultural contexts.
  • Overemphasis on rationality: Fisher and Ury’s approach to negotiation is heavily centered around rational decision-making and objective analysis. However, negotiation is often an emotional and subjective process, and the book could benefit from a more nuanced understanding of the role of emotions in negotiation.


In conclusion, “Getting to Yes” is a timeless and influential book on negotiation techniques. Its principles offer a valuable framework for approaching negotiations with a focus on collaboration and constructive problem-solving. Roger Fisher and William Ury’s insights continue to shape how individuals, businesses, and organizations approach the art of negotiation, making this book an essential read for anyone seeking to improve their negotiation skills and achieve more favorable outcomes.

Here are some additional thoughts on the book:

  • I like that the book focuses on the process of negotiation, rather than just providing a list of tips and tricks. The four-step process is easy to understand and can be applied to any type of negotiation.
  • I also appreciate that the book provides real-world examples of how the four-step process has been used to successfully negotiate a variety of agreements. This makes the book more relatable and helps readers see how the process can be applied in their own lives.
  • Overall, I think Getting to Yes is an excellent book that anyone can benefit from reading. It’s a valuable resource for anyone who wants to improve their negotiating skills, whether they’re in business, personal relationships, or any other area of life.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to negotiate effectively. It’s a classic for a reason.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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