Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yes we can . . . get to yes?

Back in April 2009, I wrote about the importance of cooperation in reaching the health care reform goal. I mentioned that it would be nice if we could avoid business as usual and perhaps use some of the negotiation techniques found in the well-known book “Getting to Yes.”

Well, we all know what happened since then.

It was business as usual, and we didn’t get to “yes.”

But, wait! There’s still an opportunity to do so. Yes, really. There’s an important meeting taking place today in Washington DC, and if the invited parties will just take a moment to consider some additional techniques from the book, perhaps some progress can be made. (I know, I know – hope springs eternal. I sound like a Cubs fan, but I assure you – I’m not.)

People problems. Chapter 2 of “Getting to Yes” is called “Separate the People from the Problem.” The authors write, “A major consequence of the ‘people problem’ in negotiation is that the parties’ relationship tends to become entangled with their discussions of substance. On both the giving and receiving end, we are likely to treat people and problem as one.”

The authors note that people problems fall into three basic categories: perception, emotion, and communication. They suggest the following for dealing with these:

  • Put yourself in their shoes,

  • Don’t deduce their intentions from your fears,

  • Don’t blame them for your problem,

  • Discuss each other’s perceptions,

  • Look for opportunities to act inconsistently with their perceptions,

  • Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process, and

  • Make your proposals consistent with their values.

  • First recognize and understand emotions, theirs and yours,

  • Make emotions explicit and acknowledge them as legitimate,

  • Allow the other side to let off steam,

  • Don’t react to emotional outbursts, and

  • Use symbolic gestures.

  • Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said,

  • Speak to be understood,

  • Speak about yourself, not about them, and

  • Speak for a purpose.

Check out the meeting today at, and let me know if you spot any of these techniques.

What do you think – can we still get to yes?


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