We are all negotiators. We negotiate every day.
At work, we negotiate with our boss for a raise and better benefits. At school, we negotiate with our professors regarding deadlines and submissions. At home, we negotiate with our family members about household duties.
But negotiating is not always easy. Sometimes, when we don’t see eye to see, it leads to conflict and estranged relationships.
No doubt, it’s difficult to negotiate with people from the other side. But sometimes the person who is the most difficult to negotiate with is ourselves.
How can we get to yes with others?
How can we resolve the conflicts that arise at work and in our family?
The Inner Yes Method
In “Getting to Yes with Yourself and Other Worthy Opponents”, William Ury describes the 6 steps of the “Inner Yes Method”, with the 3 pillars of (1) Yes to Self, (2) Yes to Life and (3) Yes to Others.
Here are my key takeaways from the book, “Getting to Yes With Yourself”:
Uncover Your Underlying Needs
What do you REALLY want?
The more we dig deeper and probe for own underlying needs, we will realise that our needs are universal.
Among our basic psychological needs, two universal ones stand out. First, the protection (safety) which promises the absence of pain. Second, connection (love), which promises the presence of pleasure.
Knowing this, it opens up a new series of internal questions. For instance,
“If you don’t get the raise at the level you want, can you still be happy? Does your happiness depend on the raise – or even the marriage – or does it come from you inside? It is not an idle question. To the extent that you can find a way to experience love and happiness from the inside, you will be more likely to find love and happiness if you get married OR if you don’t, if you get the raise OR if you don’t.”
Even if you don’t get what you want (e.g. pay raise or get married), can you still be happy?
Once you find out what you truly want (e.g. freedom), ask yourself, who can give it to you? Can you yourself give you what you want?
Paradoxically, by thinking this way, you will become less dependent on the other side.
What is Your BATNA?
Your greatest source of power in a negotiation is your BATNA, which stand for your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. If you cannot reach agreement with the other side, your BATNA is your best course of action.
For example, imagine you are in a job interview negotiating for better benefits and pay.
In the ideal scenario, you would have prepared in advance another job offer to compare and negotiate. Here, your BATNA is the other job offer you are happy to accept, even if this current offer fails.
Having a BATNA gives you the confidence that no matter what happens in the negotiation, you have a good alternative back up plan. You become less dependent on the other side to satisfy your needs. It gives you the sense of freedom, power and confidence to make your decision.
Besides, by thinking of your BATNA, you are actually thinking about where is your boundary.
How much will you give in, and how much are you willing to accept?
The Best BATNA of All
Sometimes it can be challenging to develop a BATNA, as the alternatives can be quite unattractive. Or especially when faced with a negotiating counterpart who appears more powerful, it’s difficult to equalize the power imbalance.
For instance, a client frequently demands last-minute changes to the work, we give in and tell ourselves that we need the business. Or when your partner refuses to listen and disrespects you, you ignore his/her behaviour, telling ourselves that we need their love.
In situations like these, it seems like others are having all the power and they are in control.
How can we reverse this and give ourselves the power to negotiate? What is the best BATNA of all?
The best BATNA of all, the one that can give us the most power and confidence, is the one that starts inside. This is known as the “inner BATNA”, an internal alternative to a negotiated agreement.
Your inner BATNA is the unconditional commitment you make to yourself to meet your own needs, regardless of the outcome of the situation.
“I will take care of my needs for satisfaction and fulfilment in mywork no matter what.“
The phrase “no matter what” removes the responsibility from the other party to meet your needs. You assume responsibility, stop blaming others and you are free from making ourselves the emotional prisoners of others.
The more we need another person to satisfy our needs, the more power that individual has power us. This increases our dependency towards the person for our needs, which gives us less power and control during negotiations.
Ultimately your inner BATNA drives you to seek the best for yourself, and not to give in during difficult situations and accept ill treatment from others.
Your inner BATNA is in fact the foundation of your outer BATNA. Create an “inner BATNA” before you develop an external alternative, “outer BATNA”.
In the end, if we can answer this question “Who is responsible for meeting my core psychological needs?”. If we answer “someone else”, we will give the power away to them. But if we answer, “ourselves”, we can reclaim the power to change our life and our future.
Break off the Scarcity Mindset
Often, we might have heard of the phrase it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world out there.
Even in schools, phrases of a similar meaning are commonly thrown around among students to describe the highly competitive environment.
Scarcity of resources (or more often, the illusion of it), makes us compete against one another. We fear that there is not enough to go around, so we need to take care of our own needs at the expense of others.
This is dangerous because what hinders us from making the best negotiation is the mindset of scarcity.
When people think that there is not enough to go around, conflicts arises and the negotiation easily becomes a “win-lose” or “winner-takes-all” situation.
How can we combat this scarcity mindset and negotiate more effectively?
Expand the Pie
One of the most effective negotiation strategies is to find creative ways to “expand the pie” before dividing it up. This means creating more value for each other using creativity.
For example, instead of fighting against another department for a bigger slice of the budget, the two departments could work together and explore ways to increase sales which can justify a higher budget for both.
Reframe the picture from a scarcity to sufficiency or even abundance. It’s not always a “fixed pie”.
Say Yes to Life
Further compounding the point about reframing, is an important lesson — Our ability to reframe external situations comes first from an ability to reframe our internal picture of life.
This is an expert from a paragraph of one the books that impacted me that most, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. He tells us the story of young woman, a patient of his, who laid desperately ill in a Nazi concentration camp.
This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.” Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.” Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. “I often talk to this tree,” she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. “Yes.” What did it say to her? She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here-I am here-I am life, eternal life.”
Even in such dire conditions and the face of imminent death, the young women experienced the universe as a friend in the form of a tree. She was described as “cheerful” and “grateful” for the life lessons fate has brought her.
By befriending a tree, she found a way to make her own happiness in her remaining hours.
The lesson from this story is, life can be challenging at times, but we have the choice to either see the world as our friend or enemy.
Remember that our astonishing human capacity to reframe the picture and appreciate life’s lesson.
In making this fundamental choice to say yes to life, see life as in our favour, we are able to dramatically improve our lives, relationships and our negotiations.
From Win-Lose to Win-Win and Win-Win-Win
Most most successful people in life, are “givers” not “takers”.
Salespeople who focus on giving genuine service to customers earn more than those who are mainly in it for the money.
Instead of claiming value only for yourself, create value for others. Always give more than you take.
To take this one step further, in your negotiations, think about how you can achieve a triple win.
A win for yourself, win for the other party, and win for the greater society and community.
How can your actions impact the greater community? Are you able to scale your efforts such that it benefits more people?
Change your mindset from “Win-Lose” to “Win-Win” and even “Win-Win-Win”.
By changing our basic default mode to giving, not only can we get to yes with ourselves, experiencing inner satisfaction, but we will also find it easier to get to yes with others, achieving outer success.
Summary of Key Points
As a recap, here are all the key takeaways I have from the book.
- Uncover your underlying needs: What is it that you truly want?
- Develop an outer BATNA and inner BATNA: Make pledge to take care of your own needs
- Break off the scarcity mindset: Look for ways to expand the pie
- Think win-win or even better, win-win-win
Negotiation is not always easy. In navigating tough conversations, applying some of these lessons would be helpful.
Among all these points, I think the two important lessons are (2) Develop your inner BATNA and (4) Think win-win, or even better win-win-win.
By developing your inner BATNA and making a commitment to take care of your own needs no matter what, you give the power to yourself and not to others.
There is no room for blaming others, blame changes into responsibility. You develop an internal locus of control and you are not dependent on others for your happiness. And as studies have found, having a sense of control over your life a measurement of greater well-being.
And if you take care of yourself well, you would be in a better position to help others succeed. You are able to look for mutual gains to expand the pie. You are able to look beyond yourself and the other party, and achieve a “win” for the greater community and the world.
Rule #2 in The 12 Rules for Life
Lesson 8 in 10 Lessons at 22