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Monday, February 21, 2011

Getting to Yes (or, Learning How to Be a Principled Negotiator)

I finished reading Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991) the other day.

I found the book to be extremely helpful and pithy in providing guidance on how to hone one's negotiation skills.  The authors assert that we can arrive at wiser agreements, in a more amicable manner, if we subscribe to four fundamental practices: 
  1. Separate the people from the problem 
  2. Focus on interests, not positions 
  3. Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do 
  4. Insist that the result be based on some objective standard 
I found myself wishing that I, like some I know, had been exposed to some formalized training on negotiations and conflict management in my graduate studies.  It seems like it would have been perfect content for the aspiring principal, since much of my time/effort/energy in that role was spent in managing conflict (in a million varieties) or trying to craft unique solutions to complex problems for people/groups with competing interests (negotiating!). 

I once heard a wise man say that the three problems we face in organizations are:  1) people, 2) People, and 3) PEOPLE.  He also said that the same three things were the solutions to the problems.  An interesting perspective, and one that I find hard to argue against.  The authors of Getting to Yes believe that the "people problems" can be categorized into Perception problems, Emotion problems, and Communication problems.  That seems to be a helpful way to conceptualize it.

Probably the most powerful sentence I found in the book was this one:  Active listening improves not only what you hear, but also what you say.” (p. 34)  I have personally been working diligently for several years to improve my listening skills.  I already had evidence that I was a better, more informed, more creative thinker as a result of improved listening; I had never considered the fact that those efforts at improved listening might also be improving what I say.  Cool!

I'll resist the temptation to write a full-length book report here.  Suffice to say, I can highly recommend the book and am very grateful to Jodie R. for recommending it to me.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely believe I benefited from the conflict resolution (which included negotiation & mediation) training that was built into my graduate work. I'm confident there are no tools/training I use more often in the principalship than those in the realm of communication. And, I couldn't agree more...problems and solutions all revolve around PEOPLE.

    Glad you enjoyed the read and found it to be "nc worthy."



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