The foundation text on interest-based problem-solving and negotiation.

Since its original publication nearly thirty years ago, “Getting to Yes” has helped millions of people learn a better way to negotiate. One of the primary business texts of the modern era, it is based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a group that deals with all levels of negotiation and conflict resolution. “Getting to Yes” offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. Thoroughly updated and revised, it offers readers a straight- forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry-or getting taken.

The value of this book was prefaced brilliantly in the third edition by the authors themselves:

“THIRTY YEARS HAVE now passed since the initial publication of Getting to YES. We are delighted and humbled that so many people from so many places around the world continue to find it helpful in transforming their conflicts and negotiating mutually satisfying agreements.

Little did we know at the time of its publication that this slender book would become a reference point in a quiet revolution that has over the course of three decades changed the way we make decisions within our families, organizations, and societies.

The negotiation revolution

A generation ago, the prevailing view of decision-making in most places was hierarchical. The people at the top of the pyramids of power—at work, in the family, in politics—were supposed to make the decisions and the people at the bottom of the pyramids to follow the orders. Of course, the reality was always more complicated.

In today’s world, characterized by flatter organizations, faster innovation, and the explosion of the Internet, it is clearer than ever that to accomplish our work and meet our needs, we often have to rely on dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of individuals and organizations over whom we exercise no direct control. We simply cannot rely on giving orders—even when we are dealing with employees or children. To get what we want, we are compelled to negotiate. More slowly in some places, more rapidly in others, the pyramids of power are shifting into networks of negotiation. This quiet revolution, which accompanies the better-known knowledge revolution, could well be called the “negotiation revolution.”

We began the first edition of Getting to YES with the sentence:

Like it or not, you are a negotiator.

Back then, for many readers, that was an eye opener. Now it has become an acknowledged reality. Back then, the term “negotiation” was more likely to be associated with specialized activities such as labor talks, closing a sale, or perhaps international diplomacy. Now almost all of us recognize that we negotiate in an informal sense with just about everyone we meet from morning to night.

A generation ago, the term “negotiation” also had an adversarial connotation. In contemplating a negotiation, the common question in people’s minds was, “Who is going to win and who is going to lose?” To reach an agreement, someone had to “give in.” It was not a pleasant prospect. The idea that both sides could benefit, that both could “win,” was foreign to many of us. Now it is increasingly recognized that there are cooperative ways of negotiating our differences and that even if a “win-win” solution cannot be found, a wise agreement can still often be reached that is better for both sides than the alternative.

When we were writing Getting to YES, very few courses taught negotiation. Now learning to negotiate well is accepted as a core competence with many courses offered in law schools, business schools, schools of government, and even in quite a few primary, elementary, and high schools.

In short, the “negotiation revolution” is now in full sway around the world, and we take heart that the commonsense tenets of principled negotiation have spread far and wide to good effect.

The work ahead

Still, while progress has been considerable, the work is far from done. Indeed, at no time in the last three decades can we recall a greater need for negotiation based on a joint search for mutual gains and legitimate standards.

A quick survey of the news on almost any day reveals the compelling need for a better way to deal with differences. How many people, organizations, and nations are stubbornly bargaining over positions? How much destructive escalation results in bitter family feuds, endless lawsuits, and wars without end? For lack of a good process, how many opportunities are being lost to find solutions that are better for both sides?

Conflict remains, as we have noted, a growth industry. Indeed, the advent of the negotiation revolution has brought more conflict, not less. Hierarchies tend to bottle up conflict, which comes out into the open as hierarchies give way to networks. Democracies surface rather than suppress conflict, which is why democracies often seem so quarrelsome and turbulent when compared with more authoritarian societies.

The goal cannot and should not be to eliminate conflict.

Conflict is an inevitable—and useful—part of life. It often leads to change and generates insight. Few injustices are addressed without serious conflict. In the form of business competition, conflict helps create prosperity. And it lies at the heart of the democratic process, where the best decisions result not from a superficial consensus but from exploring different points of view and searching for creative solutions. Strange as it may seem, the world needs more conflict, not less.

The challenge is not to eliminate conflict but to transform it.

It is to change the way we deal with our differences—from destructive, adversarial battling to hard-headed, side-by-side problem-solving. We should not underestimate the difficulty of this task, yet no task is more urgent in the world today.

We are living in an age that future anthropologists might look back on and call the first human family reunion. For the first time, the entire human family is in touch, thanks to the communications revolution. All fifteen thousand or so “tribes” or language communities on this planet are aware of one another around the globe. And as with many family reunions, it is not all peace and harmony, but marked by deep dissension and resentment of inequities and injustices.

More than ever, faced with the challenges of living together in a nuclear age on an increasingly crowded planet, for our own sake and the sake of future generations, we need to learn how to change the basic game of conflict. In short, the hard work of getting to “yes” has just begun.”