Although negotiation takes place every day, it is not easy to do well, and standard strategies for negotiation often leave people dissatisfied, worn-out and/or alienated, according to Roger Fisher and William Ury in their book Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In. The book describes a method of negotiation called principled negotiation, or negotiation on the merits. The method is designed to produce wise outcomes efficiently and amicably.
There are four basic points to principled negotiation: separate the people from the problem; focus on interests not positions; generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do; and insist that the result be based on some objective standard. Before entering negotiations, the negotiator should be aware of his or her “best alternative to a negotiated position” as a fallback in case the negotiations are unsuccessful. The authors also suggest various strategies for dealing with people who refuse to negotiate or who use dirty tricks.
The book is reasonably short and easy to read. It provides a systematic approach to a highly desired skill, showing how a difficult conflict can be approached in a rational rather than emotive manner, and that helps to explain why it has been a bestseller for almost 30 years. Negotiation is an essential skill for lawyers, but it is also a necessary skill for running a successful business or maintaining a successful marriage. This is the best book on negotiating that I have read, and I highly recommend it.