In his recently published book, Getting To Yes with Yourself (HarperCollins, 2015), William Ury explains a simple idea that may be difficult to implement; to get to Yes with others, we must first get to Yes with ourselves. Simply put; we are our own worst enemy  and our own biggest obstacle to achieving success in any win-win negotiation with others. (Id. at 1-13.)

So… how do we accomplish this?  Mr. Ury provides six (seemingly?) simple steps;

  1. Put Yourself in YOUR Shoes;
  2. Develop Your Inner BATNA;
  3. Reframe the Picture;
  4. Stay in the Zone;
  5. Respect Them Even If; and
  6. Give and Receive

Put Yourself In YOUR Shoes. At some point, most negotiation trainers discuss the notion of perspective taking: putting yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand his/her needs and interests. Only after you look at the issue from the other person’s perspective will you obtain a more balanced approach to resolving the issue.

As a twist on this, Mr. Ury suggests that we put ourselves in our own shoes by taking a deep and hard look within to figure out what do we really want out of life- what are our true priorities?  While we may know what our own positions are, do we really know what are our “… underlying needs, desires, concerns, fears and aspirations?” (Id. at 34.) Listen to yourself- to your inner thoughts, suspending your own inner critic. As in any mindfulness exercise, observe your thoughts, but do not criticize them. Rather, listen to yourself with empathy from your own balcony. Mr. Ury’s thesis is that once your understand yourself, you will understand others much more easily.  (Id. at 15-39.)

Develop Your Inner BATNA.  As negotiators, we have all learned   to determine what is the best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). In my mediations involving litigation, many times that BATNA is going to trial.

As a collorary to the first rule, Mr. Ury suggests that we take responsibility for our own lives; stop playing the blame game and “… reclaim the power to change the situation for the better.” (Id. at 43.) As long as we play the blame game, we, are, in effect, giving our power away. (Id.)  In short, we must own our own life, and take responsibility for our decisions and our life. (Id. at 44-45.)  Rather than trading blames back and forth, we must respond “constructively to a situation facing us, treating it as ours to handle.” (Id. at 45.) In short, we must own our own life, our own relationships, and our own needs. (Id. at 41- 63.)

The third rule is eye- opening: Reframe the picture. In short, do you see life as friendly or as hostile? If as hostile, reframe your thinking to see it as a friendly place. See every challenge as an opportunity, not as a disaster about to happen. Do not get lost in the trees of every day “mishaps” but rather look at the forest of life as a whole and how each of us is connected to the other.  Understand the bigger picture which is life itself. (Id. at 65-87.)  One senior citizen golfer once told my husband that every day on top of the grass is better than being under.  How true!

Stay In the Zone.  Many times we dwell about the past (playing the blame game) and worry about the future. The better modus operandi is to constantly stay in the present.  We cannot change the past no matter how hard we try and so we must learn to accept it and let go. (Id. at 89-103.) And the future… we must learn to trust it. (Id. at 103-106.) To get to that future, Mr. Ury suggests that we must stay in the present, listening carefully for opportunities that will lead to a resolution. By staying in the present and looking for opportunities for constructive action we can “change the direction of”… the future. (Id. at 93.)   Athletes call this being in the “zone” or in the state of “flow”. (Id. at 94.)  Rather than reacting to what we hear, think constructively- what would be a constructive response? In short, accept the situation as it is, rather than resist it, and use your constructive powers to determine the best way forward. (Id. at 89-113.)

The next step is one that I sometimes see ignored in mediation: Respect Them Even If. Every person is human and so is entitled to dignity and respect.  While one may adamantly disagree with the other person’s positon or even behavior (and, indeed, may not even like the person!), that person is still entitled to respect and dignity.  Listen to that person with respect and dignity; what you hear may just change your attitude!  Especially if the other person rejects you, do the opposite of what your initial reaction suggests.  As Abraham Lincoln once commented, turn your enemies into your friends. (Id. at 129.) Rather than attacking back, befriend them. (Id. at 115-141.)

The last rule is simple: Give and Receive. By giving of ourselves, we will actually receive more.  Rather than going into a negotiation, thinking “what is in it for me” or “how much can I get out of this”, approach it by asking what can I give to the other or how can I create value for both of us.  By looking for mutual gain, you will, in effect, be thinking in terms of cooperation, rather than competition.  (Id. at 143-167.) Or, to quote an old adage, the more you give, the more your get!

In sum, we are our own biggest obstacle to successfully resolving disputes with others. To resolve those disputes, we must first know ourselves well!

… Just something to think about.


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