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Getting Past NO

Compiled by Chuck Olson

Title: Getting Past NO

Author: William Ury

Copyright: 1991

Book Description:

We all want to get to yes, but what happens when the other person keeps saying no? How can you negotiate successfully with a stubborn boss, an irate customer, or a deceitful coworker?In Getting Past No, William Ury of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation offers a proven breakthrough strategy for turning adversaries into negotiating partners. You’ll learn how to:

  • Stay in control under pressure
  • Defuse anger and hostility
  • Find out what the other side really wants
  • Counter dirty tricks
  • Use power to bring the other side back to the table
  • Reach agreements that satisfies both sides’ needs

Getting Past No is the state-of-the-art book on negotiation for the twenty-first century. It will help you deal with tough times, tough people, and tough negotiations. You don’t have to get mad or get even. Instead, you can get what you want!

Book Quotes:

Broadly defined, negotiation is the process of back-and-forth communication aimed at reaching agreement with others when some of your interests are shared and some are opposed. – Highlight Loc. 125-26

There is an alternative: joint problem-solving. It is neither exclusively soft nor hard, but a combination of each. It is soft on the people, hard on the problem. Instead of attacking each other, you jointly attack the problem. Instead of glowering across the table, you sit next to each other facing your common problem. In short, you turn face-to-face confrontation into side-by-side problem-solving. – Highlight Loc. 140-43

Joint problem-solving revolves around interests instead of positions. You begin by identifying each side’s interests—the concerns, needs, fears, and desires that underlie and motivate your opposing positions. You then explore different options for meeting those interests. Your goal is to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement in an efficient and amicable fashion. – Highlight Loc. 144-47

In joint problem-solving, you face the problem and attack it together. – Highlight Loc. 171-72

This book lays out a five-step strategy for breaking through each of these five barriers—the strategy of breakthrough negotiation. – Highlight Loc. 186-88

The direct route—focusing first on interests and then developing options that satisfy those interests—seems straightforward and easy. But in the real world of strong reactions and emotions, rigid positions, powerful dissatisfactions and aggressions, you often cannot get to a mutually satisfactory agreement by the direct route. Instead, you need to navigate past no by tacking—taking an indirect route. – Highlight Loc. 191-94

The essence of the breakthrough strategy is indirect action. It requires you to do the opposite of what you naturally feel like doing in difficult situations. – Highlight Loc. 194-96

Your single greatest opportunity as a negotiator is to change the game. Instead of playing their way, let them have your way—the way of joint problem-solving. – Highlight Loc. 198-200

Breakthrough negotiation is the opposite of imposing your position on the other side. Rather than pounding in a new idea from the outside, you encourage them to reach for it from within. Rather than telling them what to do, you let them figure it out. – Highlight Loc. 205-7

  • Step One. Since the first barrier is your natural reaction, the first step involves suspending that reaction. To engage in joint problem-solving, you need to regain your mental balance and stay focused on achieving what you want. A useful image for getting perspective on the situation is to imagine yourself standing on a balcony looking down on your negotiation. The first step in the breakthrough strategy is to Go to the Balcony. – Highlight Loc. 212-15
  • Step Two. The next barrier for you to overcome is the other side’s negative emotions—their defensiveness, fear, suspicion, and hostility. It is all too easy to get drawn into an argument, but you need to resist this temptation. Just as you’ve regained your mental balance, you need to help the other side regain theirs. To create the right climate for joint problem-solving, you need to defuse their negative emotions. To do this, you need to do the opposite of what they expect. They expect you to behave like an adversary. Instead, you should take their side by listening to them, acknowledging their points and their feelings, agreeing with them, and showing them respect. If you want to sit side by side facing the problem, you will need to Step to Their Side. – Highlight Loc. 216-21
  • Step Three. Now you want to tackle the problem together. This is hard to do, however, when the other side digs into their position and tries to get you to give in. It’s natural to feel like rejecting their position, but this will only lead them to dig in further. So do the opposite. Accept whatever they say and reframe it as an attempt to deal with the problem. For example, take their position and probe behind it: “Tell me more. Help me understand why you want that.” Act as if they were your partners genuinely interested in solving the problem. The third step in the breakthrough strategy is to Reframe. – Highlight Loc. 222-27
  • Step Four. While you may now have engaged the other side in joint problem-solving, you may still be far from reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. The other side may be dissatisfied, unconvinced of the benefits of agreement. You may feel like pushing them, but this will only make them more resistant. So do the opposite. In the words of the Chinese sage, “build a golden bridge” from their position to a mutually satisfactory solution. You need to bridge the gap between their interests and yours. You need to help them save face and make the outcome look like a victory for them. The fourth step is to Build Them a Golden Bridge. – Highlight Loc. 227-32
  • Step Five. Despite your best efforts, the other side may still refuse to cooperate, believing they can beat you at the power game. You may be tempted at this point to escalate. Threats and coercion often backfire, however, and lead to costly and futile battles. The alternative is to use power not to escalate, but to educate. Enhance your negotiating power and use it to bring them back to the table. Show them that they cannot win by themselves but only together with you. The fifth step is to Use Power to Educate. – Highlight Loc. 233-37

Before every meeting, prepare. After every meeting, assess your progress, adapt your strategy, and prepare again. The secret of effective negotiation is that simple: prepare, prepare, prepare. Most negotiations are won or lost even before the talking begins, depending on the quality of the preparation. – Highlight Loc. 261-63

Negotiation typically begins when one side’s position comes into conflict with the other side’s. In conventional bargaining, your position may be all you need to know in advance. But joint problem-solving revolves around the interests that lie behind each side’s positions. – Highlight Loc. 278-80

Figure out their interests. Negotiation is a two-way street. You usually can’t satisfy your interests unless you also satisfy the other side’s. It is therefore just as important to understand their interests as your own.
– Highlight Loc. 293-94

It’s taken me twenty-five years to learn that just as important as the facts, if not more important, are people’s perceptions of those facts. – Highlight Loc. 298-99

The purpose of identifying each side’s interests is to see if you can devise creative options to satisfy them. An option is a possible agreement or part of an agreement. Inventing options for mutual gain is a negotiator’s single greatest opportunity. Effective negotiators do not just divvy up a fixed pie. They first explore how to expand the pie. – Highlight Loc. 308-10

The biggest obstacle in the way of generating creative options is a little voice in the back of our heads that is always saying, “That won’t work!” Criticism and evaluation, while important functions, interfere with your imagination. It is better to separate the two functions. Invent first, evaluate later. – Highlight Loc. 318-20

Perhaps the most common method is to use a contest of wills. Each side insists on its position, trying to get the other to give in. The problem is that nobody likes to give in. A contest of wills thus quickly becomes a conflict of egos. – Highlight Loc. 326-28

All too often people go into a negotiation looking for agreement and examine their alternatives only if things go badly. This is a classic mistake. Knowing what your alternatives are can determine your success in satisfying your interests. The purpose of negotiation is not always to reach agreement. For agreement is only a means to an end, and that end is to satisfy your interests. The purpose of negotiation is to explore whether you can satisfy your interests better through an agreement than you could by pursuing your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Your BATNA is your walkaway alternative. It’s your best course of action for satisfying your interests without the other’s agreement. – Highlight Loc. 337-43

BATNA is the key to negotiating power. Your power depends less on whether you are bigger, stronger, more senior, or richer than the other person than on how good your BATNA is. If you have a viable alternative, then you have leverage in the negotiation. The better your BATNA, the more power you have. – Highlight Loc. 347-49

Keep your BATNA in your pocket. When you’re under heavy attack and feel panicky, you can pat your pocket and say to yourself, “I’m okay if it doesn’t go okay.” – Highlight Loc. 356-58

Identify their BATNA. Knowing the other side’s BATNA can be just as important as knowing your own.
– Highlight Loc. 376-77

What distinguishes a proposal from a simple option is commitment: A proposal is a possible agreement to which you are ready to say yes. – Highlight Loc. 389

Your challenge is to change the game from face-to-face confrontation into side-by-side problem-solving, turning your opponent into a negotiating partner. – Highlight Loc. 428-29

Often the other side is actually trying to make you react. The first casualty of an attack is your objectivity—the faculty you need most to negotiate effectively. They are trying to throw you off balance and prevent you from thinking straight. – Highlight Loc. 506-8

Some of the most effective negotiation is accomplished by saying nothing. – Highlight Loc. 627

Successful negotiators learn that appearing a little obtuse can be a negotiating advantage. It allows you to slow down the discussion. – Highlight Loc. 665-66

In the presence of the other person, you are under strong psychological pressure to agree. One simple rule of thumb will help keep you out of trouble: Never make an important decision on the spot. Go to the balcony and make it there. – Highlight Loc. 687-89

In sum, the most natural thing to do when faced with a difficult person or situation is to react. It is also the biggest mistake you can make. – Highlight Loc. 701-2

The mistake, a common one, is in trying to reason with a person who is not receptive. Your words will fall on deaf ears or be misconstrued. You are up against the barrier of emotion. – Highlight Loc. 727-29

The secret of disarming is surprise. To disarm the other side, you need to do the opposite of what they expect. If they are stonewalling, they expect you to apply pressure; if they are attacking, they expect you to resist. So don’t pressure; don’t resist. Do the opposite: Step to their side. It disorients them and opens them up to changing their adversarial posture. – Highlight Loc. 735-38

Stepping to their side means doing three things: listening, acknowledging, agreeing. Listen to what they have to say. Acknowledge their point, their feelings, and their competence and status. And agree with them wherever you can. – Highlight Loc. 740-42

People derive genuine satisfaction from voicing their feelings and resentments. – Highlight Loc. 775-76

After listening to the other side, the next step is to acknowledge their point. You may be reluctant to do this because of your strong disagreement. But by omitting this step you miss a critical opportunity. Every human being, no matter how impossible, has a deep need for recognition. By satisfying that need you can help create a climate for agreement. – Highlight Loc. 797-99

Don’t ignore the other side’s emotions. Behind their attack often lies anger; behind their stonewalling often lies fear. Until you defuse their emotions, your reasonable arguments will fall on deaf ears. – Highlight Loc. 814-15

It is disarming to be met with an acknowledgment rather than an argument. Telling them “I appreciate how you feel” or “If I were in your shoes, I’d be just as angry” lets them know their message has been heard and appreciated. – Highlight Loc. 824-25

Perhaps the most powerful form of acknowledgment is an apology. – Highlight Loc. 829

Once you have listened to the other side and acknowledged what they have said, the next step is to agree wherever you can. It will be hard for them to attack someone who agrees with them. – Highlight Loc. 856-58

The key word in agreement is “yes.” “Yes” is a magic word, a powerful tool for disarming the other side. Look for occasions when you can say yes to them without making a concession. “Yes, you have a point there.” “Yes, I agree with you.” Say yes as often as possible. – Highlight Loc. 875-78

Whatever language you use, the key is to present your views as an addition to, rather than a direct contradiction of, the other person’s point of view. – Highlight Loc. 957-58

An I-statement does not challenge the other side’s views but simply offers them a different perspective—yours. – Highlight Loc. 971-72

Be bold in acknowledging the other person’s views, bold in asserting your own, and equally bold in expressing optimism that your differences can be resolved. – Highlight Loc. 994-95

In sum, the hurdles you face are the other side’s suspicion and hostility, closed ears, and lack of respect. Your best strategy is to step to their side. It is harder to be hostile toward someone who hears you out and acknowledges what you say and how you feel. It is easier to listen to someone who has listened to you. And respect breeds respect. – Highlight Loc. 996-99

To change the negotiation game, you need to do the same thing. Do the opposite of what you may feel tempted to do. Treat your opponent like a partner. Instead of rejecting what your opponent says, accept it—and reframe it as an opportunity to talk about the problem. Reframing means redirecting the other side’s attention away from positions and toward the task of identifying interests, inventing creative options, and discussing fair standards for selecting an option. Just as you might put a new frame around an old picture, you put a problem-solving frame around the other side’s positional statements. Instead of rejecting their hard-line position, you treat it as an informative contribution to the discussion. Reframe it by saying, “That’s interesting. Why do you want that? Help me understand the problem you are trying to solve.” The moment they answer, the focus of the conversation shifts from positions to interests. You have just changed the game. – Highlight Loc. 1073-81

Reframing is one of the greatest powers you have as a negotiator. The way to change the game is to change the frame. – Highlight Loc. 1104-5

The better approach is to ask questions. Instead of giving the other side the right answer, try to ask the right question. Instead of trying to teach them yourself, let the problem be their teacher. – Highlight Loc. 1108-9

If the other side still won’t reveal their interests, bring them up yourself and ask them to correct you.
– Highlight Loc. 1139-40

To introduce a host of possible solutions without challenging their position, use one of the most powerful phrases in the English language: “What if?” – Highlight Loc. 1150-51

Since judging inhibits creativity, invent first and evaluate later. – Highlight Loc. 1163-64

Another way to engage the other side in a discussion of options is to ask for their advice. It is probably the last thing they expect you to do. Ask “What would you suggest that I do?” – Highlight Loc. 1165-66

The other side’s position may strike you as unreasonable. Instead of rejecting it, however, you can use it as a jumping-off point for a discussion of standards of fairness. Act as if they must believe their position is fair—they usually do. Tell them: “You must have good reasons for thinking that’s a fair solution. I’d like to hear them.” – Highlight Loc. 1181-83

Only half the power of a problem-solving question lies in the question itself. The other half can be found in the pregnant silence that follows as the other side struggles with the question and mulls over their answer. A common mistake is to deprive them of this creative time. – Highlight Loc. 1223-25

You should resist this temptation and wait for an answer from your negotiating counterpart. After all, you have asked a perfectly legitimate question. Let the silence and discomfort do their work. – Highlight Loc. 1227-28

A simple and powerful way to reframe the situation from “you” or “me” to “we” is through body language. When people argue, they usually stand or sit face-to-face, physically expressing their confrontation. So find a natural excuse to sit side by side. Pull out a document or proposed agreement and sit down next to your counterpart to review it. – Highlight Loc. 1305-7

If you spot a contradiction, don’t challenge it directly. Just act confused: “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t understand. Could you explain how this relates to what you said before?” – Highlight Loc. 1324-26

The turning point of the breakthrough method is when you change the game from positional bargaining to joint problem-solving. The key to changing the game is to reframe. Reframing means taking whatever your opponent says and directing it against the problem. – Highlight Loc. 1418-20

Instead of pushing the other side toward an agreement, you need to do the opposite. You need to draw them in the direction you want them to move. Your job is to build a golden bridge across the chasm. You need to reframe a retreat from their position as an advance toward a better solution. – Highlight Loc. 1512-15

Building a golden bridge means making it easier for the other side to surmount the four common obstacles to agreement. It means actively involving them in devising a solution so that it becomes their idea, not just yours. It means satisfying their unmet interests. It means helping them save face; and it means making the process of negotiation as easy as possible. – Highlight Loc. 1532-34

Negotiation is more about asking than it is about telling. The simplest way to involve the other side is to ask for their ideas. – Highlight Loc. 1550-51

Show the other side how your proposal stems from or relates to one of their ideas. Building on their ideas does not mean shortchanging your own. It means building a bridge from their thinking back to yours.
– Highlight Loc. 1557-59

The most common way to expand the pie is to make a low-cost, high-benefit trade. Identify items you could give the other side that are of high benefit to them but low cost to you. In return, seek items that are of high benefit to you but low cost to them. – Highlight Loc. 1637-38

When you think you have reached agreement, take a moment to sum up: “Let’s make sure we both have the same understanding of what we have agreed on.” Then go over each issue carefully. If possible, set down your agreement in writing. – Highlight Loc. 1781-83

The key mistake we make when we feel frustrated is to abandon the problem-solving game and turn to the power game instead. – Highlight Loc. 1823

Treat the exercise of power as an integral part of the problem-solving negotiation. Use power to bring the other side to the table. Instead of seeking victory, aim for mutual satisfaction. Use power to bring them to their senses, not to their knees. – Highlight Loc. 1826-28

Use your power to educate the other side that the only way for them to win is for both of you to win together. Assume the mind-set of a respectful counselor. Act as if they have simply miscalculated how best to achieve their interests. – Highlight Loc. 1831-32

The three most common reality-testing questions are:

  • “What do you think will happen if we don’t agree?”
  • “What do you think I will do?”
  • “What will you do?” – Highlight Loc. 1875

How can you let the other side know about your BATNA in a way that propels them to the negotiating table, not the battleground? The key lies in framing what you say as a warning rather than a threat. At first sight, a warning appears to be similar to a threat, since both convey the negative consequences of no agreement. But there is a critical, if subtle, distinction: A threat appears subjective and confrontational, while a warning appears objective and respectful. – Highlight Loc. 1887-90

Use the minimum power necessary to persuade your opponent to return to the negotiating table.
– Highlight Loc. 1946

Power is useless if it drives the other side into a corner and makes them resist you with all their might.
– Highlight Loc. 2040-41

Don’t just give the other side an either/or decision. Allow them to shape the details. – Highlight Loc. 2057-58

An imposed outcome is an unstable one. Even if you have a decisive power advantage, you should think twice before lunging for victory and imposing a humiliating settlement on the other side. Not only will they resist all the more, but they may try to undermine or reverse the outcome at the first opportunity. – Highlight Loc. 2061-63

Guarantees offer you a final resort if your counterpart breaks the agreement—but they don’t give you a first resort. For that, you need to establish in advance a dispute resolution procedure. Your contract should spell out exactly what will happen if one party feels the other is not living up to the terms of the agreement.
– Highlight Loc. 2116-18

The theme throughout is to treat your opponent with respect—not as an object to be pushed, but as a person to be persuaded. Rather than trying to change the other side’s thinking by direct pressure, you change the environment in which they make decisions. You let them draw their own conclusions and choose for themselves. Your goal is not to win over them, but to win them over. – Highlight Loc. 2161-64

Breakthrough negotiation is hard work. Successful negotiators are patient and persistent. Progress usually comes gradually. Small breakthroughs can add up to a major breakthrough. – Highlight Loc. 2167-68

It is within your power to transform even your most difficult relationships. Your greatest power is the power to change the game—from face-to-face confrontation to side-by-side joint problem-solving.
– Highlight Loc. 2327-29


Note: should you wish to find any quote in its original context, the Kindle “location” is provided after each entry.



Chuck Olson

As founder and president of Lead With Your Life, Dr. Chuck Olson is passionate about inspiring, resourcing and equipping Kingdom leaders to lead from the inside out.  To lead, not with the external shell of positions, achievements or titles, but from an internal commitment to a deep, abiding and transparent relationship with Jesus. Serving as a pastor and leadership coach for over forty years, Chuck has a track record of building these truths deep into the lives of both ministry and marketplace leaders.

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