Negotiate By Accessing Your Inner Self
In the 35 years since he co-authored the seminal bestseller on negotiation, Getting to Yes, William Ury eventually realized that it needed a prequel that describes the mandatory preliminary step to any negotiation: Negotiators have to negotiate with themselves on what they truly need and want first before they can successfully negotiate an agreement with others.
As Ury describes in his new book, Getting to Yes with Yourself, most negotiators sabotage their own interests because they are wrapped up in the anger and tension of the situation. Obsessed with the negative, they are distrustful at best, bitter and entrenched in their positions at worst.
For example, Ury opens the first chapter with the story of prominent Brazilian businessman Abilio Diniz, who had built up, with his father, Brazil’s leading supermarket retailer. Diniz had been in a nearly three-year, no-holds-barred battle with a foreign business partner over control of the company — a dispute the Financial Times called “one of the biggest cross-continental boardroom showdowns in history.” The mediations and lawsuits threatened to continue for years. Ury helped Diniz discover that his seething, resenting and anger were clouding what was more important to him: the freedom to do as he chose and the time to spend with his family. Armed with this new insight, Diniz would eventually reach an agreement with the partner and extract himself from the battle. It was not easy or quick (shortly after his discussions with Ury, Diniz gave a magazine interview in which he mentioned his opponent 38 times), but a turning point, according to Ury, was the moment that Diniz had successfully negotiated with himself first.
Putting Yourself in Your Own Shoes
The story of Diniz exemplifies the first of six steps in Ury’s Inner Yes methodology at the heart of his book: putting yourself in your own shoes. This sounds a bit strange at first: We know what we want; it’s putting yourself in other people’s shoes that is the challenge. In truth, as the story of Diniz illustrates, negative emotions in a conflict blind us to what is most important to us and, instead, lead us to work against our own interests.
The Inner BATNA
The second step, according to Ury, is to develop your inner BATNA — the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” If negotiations fail, there will be an acceptable alternative; surprisingly, recognizing this alternative often frees the negotiator from the negative emotions and inner constraints that destroy negotiations, thus leading to resolutions. Ury tells the story of a mother whose 13-year-old son had been battling her at every turn since the age of seven. Ury helped this distraught and frustrated mother by guiding her to her BATNA: If the relationship with her son was never resolved, she had at least had loving relationships with her other two children. The mother finally “let go” of the battle, refusing to pour all of her energy and anxiety into the broken relationship. Ironically, letting go proved to be the first small step toward an eventual reconciliation with her recalcitrant son.
These first two steps represent the first phase — saying yes to self — of Ury’s methodology. But it is only the beginning. To achieve what Ury calls the “inner yes,” you must also say yes to life in the next two steps: Reframe your picture by developing positive starting assumptions about life and the world, and stay in the zone, living in the present rather than focusing on resenting the past or fearing the future. Finally, you are in a position to say yes to others, which requires you to respect them –– even if it is to answer the rejection and personal attacks of difficult people with respect — and to give and receive, that is, to give first before taking.
Getting to Yes with Yourself is much more than a manual for succeeding at the negotiating table. Filled with extraordinary stories, ranging from hot and cold wars on the global stage to heart-wrenching battles in ordinary lives — including the inspirational battle of Ury’s own daughter to stay alive and positive despite life-threatening illness — Getting to Yes with Yourself should take its place along such books as Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, as a positive, life-affirming guide to success.