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Book review – Getting to Yes

How often do you read? What types of book do you like? What was the last book you read in English? It can be difficult to find something suitable to read in English, so we’re going to give you some book recommendations from time to time. In today’s post, Laura reviews a popular business book which was recommended to her by one of our course participants!

Recently I’ve been reading a best-selling classic of business strategy; Roger Fisher and William Ury’s ‘Getting to Yes’, which was recommended to me by one of our International Business Communication students.  In ‘Getting to Yes’, Fisher and Ury advise the reader on how to conduct a ‘principled negotiation’ without giving in.  Although the book is intended primarily for business, it also deals with the negotiations of everyday life – for example those between parents and children.

In my Young Business English class we tried out one of the techniques of the book, which is simply putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.  We used Fisher and Ury’s own concrete example of the contrasting perceptions of a tenant and a landlady when negotiating the renewal of a lease.  The group worked in two teams, landlady and tenant, to reformulate their perceptions to those of the other side.  For example, whereas the tenant might think that ‘The rent is already too high’, the landlady might be concerned that ‘The rent has not been increased for a long time’.  If the landlady thinks of herself as ‘a considerate person who never intrudes on a tenant’s privacy’, the tenant might have a more negative perception of her as ‘cold and distant’ because ‘she never asks me how things are’.

Once you have a greater understanding of the other side’s perspective you are in a stronger position to negotiate a deal which suits both sides.  The task was fun and thought-provoking and formed a great basis for our negotiation role-plays.

Well, if you want to learn the other strategies you’ll have to read the book!  The examples may have changed since the first publication in 1981 but the basic advice still stands; to focus not on ‘winning’ as such but having a principled negotiation which can benefit all the parties concerned.

However, Fisher and Ury have now provided some advice for dealing with those difficult people who are aiming for a ‘win-lose’ negotiation in their sequel ‘Getting past NO’.  I haven’t had chance to read it yet, so I’d love to hear your comments if you have!

By Laura


from time to time (idiom) – occasionally; sometimes

conduct (v.) – do; carry out

primarily (adv.) – mainly

put yourself in someone else’s shoes (exp.) – think about what the other person thinks or how they feel

concrete (adj.) – specific

landlady (n.) – woman from whom you rent a house or flat

renewal of a lease (exp.) – to extend a contract for renting a house or flat

reformulate (v.) – rewrite in a different way or from a different point of view

intrude (v.) – interrupt; disturb someone’s privacy

thought-provoking (adj.) – makes you think in a different way

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