Critiquing "Getting to Yes": A Deeper Look at Negotiation Flaws

Categories: AgreementNegotiation

The aim of this paper is to elaborate on three reasons why the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Fisher, Ury and Patton is flawed. The first reason for criticism is Fisher and Ury’s unconditional rejection of positional bargaining. The second area that is based on several erroneous assumptions is their model of principled negotiations. Thirdly, the practical advice offered in the closing chapters of the book is rather commonplace and general. Starting with the first reason, Fisher, Ury and Patton (1992) strongly deem that positional bargaining is an unacceptable negotiations strategy.

A bargaining style where each side opens with their position on an issue is the most common yet very ineffective in the eyes of the authors of Getting to Yes for the reason that compromise is often hard to achieve, and parties’ interests are often only partially satisfied. Moreover, Fisher, Ury and Patton (1992) deem that positional bargaining is detrimental to the further relationship between the sides of the bargain.

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However, this is not necessarily the case. Positional bargaining is an acceptable strategy in many cases, and it has several important advantages. The first advantage of positional bargaining is the speed of negotiation.

If the parties’ opening positions are too different, the parties are quick to realize that the agreement is unlikely to be produced. It is also an effective strategy when there are multiple offers, and a party can assess their attractiveness on the basis of opening positions. Fisher, Ury and Patton (1992) believe that one of the disadvantages of positional bargaining is associated with the increased commitment to one’s position as negotiations progress, since “[y]our ego becomes identified with your position” (p.

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5). However, this applies only to inexperienced negotiators and smaller deals.

When stakes are high, and negotiators have at least some basic experience in conflict resolution, the parties can exhibit a substantial degree of flexibility during positional bargaining, thus reaching a mutually satisfactory conclusion. Instead of positional bargaining, Fisher, Ury and Patton (1992) come up with a model of principled negotiation. Their four principles they suggest are as follows: separating the people from the problem; focusing on interests rather than positions; elaborating several options before settling on an agreement; and ensuring that the agreement be based on objective criteria.

Positional bargaining is deemed ineffective, since it involves “starting with extreme position, by stubbornly holding to it, by deceiving the other party as to your true views, and by making small concessions only as necessary to keep the negotiation going” (Fisher, Ury & Patton, 1992, p. 6). From a rational point of view, not all the negotiations start with extreme positions. The parties should rationally estimate the potential acceptability of their opening positions to the other side, therefore they are very likely to start with a position that is reasonable and can become the basis for a lasting agreement.

It has been already noted that not all negotiator cling stubbornly to their own agenda – most of them are flexible and respond to incoming information. Making small concessions until an acceptable agreement is reached might be the most effective solution from a mathematical point of view: all the systems in nature and society are in the state of movement before they reach a state of balance. However, the most questionable assumption out of all is the one about “deceiving other party.”

For Fisher, Ury and Patton (1992), the ultimate manifestation of “honesty” is negotiation style based on revealing the party’s underlying interests rather than positions to the other party. This view is fairly naive and unrealistic. In contemporary business settings, few companies reveal their interests openly, especially if there is a threat of competition. Most companies and negotiators will be reluctant to talk about principles instead of announcing their positions.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Critiquing "Getting to Yes": A Deeper Look at Negotiation Flaws. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Critiquing "Getting to Yes": A Deeper Look at Negotiation Flaws essay
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