Getting Past No

When William Ury and Roger Fisher’s very popular first book, GETTING TO YES (1981), became the standard for negotiations strategies large and small, many readers asked the hard question: “What do I do if the opponent hasn’t read the same book, and is uncooperative, dishonest, or unfair?” Ury’s answer, in this carefully structured response, is both ethically responsible and practical.

A continuation of the work of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, this how-to guide covers the difficult negotiations brought on by stubborn or devious opponents. In five steps, Ury outlines the strategies for getting past the automatic “no” response: don’t react; disarm the opponent; change the game; make it easy to say yes; make it hard to say no. The discussions that accompany these points are carefully detailed, illustrated by anecdotes and hypothetical cases, and made memorable by a series of slogans and metaphors for the negotiator to keep in mind, such as “Go to the balcony” (remove yourself from the heat of the moment to regain a larger perspective); “Build them a golden bridge” (over which to retreat when cornered); “Bring them to their senses, not to their knees” (make them think they have reasoned out your solution).

While Ury is adept at walking the reader through the negotiating process, real-life situations that call for an application of his principles are often more complex and less easily isolated than his examples. The book works best as a supplement to GETTING TO YES, where the essential lessons of negotiating attitude are presented and supported. Once the negotiator, whether a high-ranking government ambassador or simply a parent with an intractable teenager, understands the basic premise of win-win negotiations, the finer points of Ury’s follow-up advice can be absorbed. A well-written and well organized handbook for the participant of meetings, debates, arguments, and committee work, Ury’s book deserves to be on the shelf—better still, in the briefcase—of every negotiator.