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The Art of Winning: Get a YES without Giving In

The news is filled with people negotiating about something– the NFL labor contract, the Debt Ceiling solution, even which night the President would speak about jobs.

Then there is the Cookie Monster/Stephen Colbert conflict which came about when fruit overtook cookies as the favorite snack of every American child. Colbert, a political comedian, showed his concern about this event; Especially when Cookie Monster changed sides, seeming to now favor fruit over cookies. He asked Cookie Monster why he “abandoned the pro-cookie agenda.” After eating a cookie to prove cookies are still his first love, Cookie Monster explained “Cookies are a sometimes food, while fruit is an always time food.” Win-Win? YES.  And Colbert couldn’t help but agree.

Negotiations are a common activity throughout our lives—among family members, bosses and employees, customers and companies, countries and statesmen. In all instances of conflict resolution, a “win-win” result is best—getting a YES without giving in.

In their seminal book, “Getting to YES, Negotiating Agreement without Giving In”, Roger Fisher and William Ury give all of us practical advice on how to win when making agreements.

Their method for negotiating…

1. Separate the people from the problem

Deal with the people as people.  Deal with the problem based on its own facts..both content and context.

The authors tell the story of two men in a library. One would like a window open. The other didn’t like the draft caused by the window. Both men became annoyed seeing no resolution –decreased listening, increasing anger. The librarian dealt with the merits of the problem by opening a window in a room next door – cooling the rooms and eliminating the draft.

2. Focus on interests, not positions

Understand the interests which caused people to decide on a position in the first place.

NPR (National Public Radio) recently referred to Freshman College roommates as an arranged marriage. Imagine these roommates arguing over the thermostat in winter – one too hot, one too cold.  The Interest:  Stay warm at night.  The Position:  Control the basement.  The Solution:  Set the temperature for one; add a blanket for the other.

3. Invent options for mutual gains

Separate the act of creating options from the act of judging options; broaden the options on the table and search for mutual gains”.

I am reminded of a story told to me by a restaurant franchisor, regarding a franchisee’s decision to stop “salting the fries” because of some customer complaints about sodium and health. As changing the restaurant standard was deemed unacceptable, but pleasing the customer was a must, what was the myriad of options to do both? Brainstorming all of the options resulted in having unsalted fries as a grill order.

4. Insist on using objective criteria

Settle differences not on the basis of a person’s own want or desire, but on objective criteria.

Using standards for resolving an issue is preferred to getting the other person to back down. A great example of this is coming to an agreement on home values in this difficult housing market. The appraisal process is an accepted standard for valuation.  Getting several appraisals is often a solution when just one appraisal is challenged by seller or buyer.

In Summary

Getting to Yes  is all about using the methods described above to enjoy being ahead of the game, especially when it comes to negotiations. It is about obtaining what is right for all parties by being hard on the issues, while being soft on the people.

Debra Koenig, President, B2A