The best books on negotiating for mutual advantage

Lawrence E. Susskind Author Of Good for You, Great for Me: Finding the Trading Zone and Winning at Win-Win Negotiation
By Lawrence E. Susskind

Who am I?

I am a Professor at MIT and co-founder of both the inter-university Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and the not-for-profit Consensus Building Institute that provides help in resolving some of the most complex resource management disputes around the world. I have been teaching negotiation and dispute resolution, doing research about the circumstances under which various negotiation strategies do and don’t work, and offering online training for more than four decades. Given the many negotiations I've observed, I’m convinced that negotiating for mutual advantage is the way to go -- avoid unnecessary conflict, get what you want in all kinds of negotiating situations, and walk away with good working relationships and a solid reputation.

I wrote...

Good for You, Great for Me: Finding the Trading Zone and Winning at Win-Win Negotiation

By Lawrence E. Susskind,

Book cover of Good for You, Great for Me: Finding the Trading Zone and Winning at Win-Win Negotiation

What is my book about?

There's confusion about the idea of win-win negotiation. Does it really mean that all sides get everything they want? The answer, of course, is “no.” Win-win actually refers to the parties all coming out ahead relative to their most realistic walk-away option. There are lots of detailed examples and instructions in this book, beginning with the early moves that help to identify what I call the “trading zone” – the area bracketed by what each side would be better off saying “no” to and each side’s ideal outcome.

If you care about the relationship you end up with, and not just the immediate result, you're better off negotiating in a way that enables all sides to meet their most important interests through a form of collaboration. 
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes

Why did I love this book?

Bill Ury was one of the authors of the most important book in the negotiation field – Getting to Yes written more than 30 years ago. It challenged the win-lose model of negotiation that prevailed at the time. Bill and his partners Roger Fisher and Bruce Patton made it clear that we not only need to get agreement, when one is possible given the underlying interests of the parties, we also need to know how to defend our own interests in the face of inside and outside pressure. 

One of the reviewers of The Power of a Positive No said that the book “has the power to transform our lives by enabling us to say Yes to what counts – our own needs and values.” I’ve watched him in action; Bill’s three-step method works. First, you say what you really need. Then, you say no to proposals that don’t meet your interests and explain why. Then, you make a counter-offer that the other side can say yes to (while still meeting your interests very well. This book squares the circle and it is really easy reading. 

By William Ury,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Power of a Positive No as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“William Ury brings a marvelous blend of experience, insight, integrity and warmth to his work. In this wonderful book he teaches us how to say No—with grace and effect—so that we might create an even better Yes.” —Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

No is perhaps the most important and certainly the most powerful word in the language. Every day we find ourselves in situations where we need to say No–to people at work, at home, and in our communities–because No is the word we must use to protect ourselves and to stand up for everything and everyone that…

Book cover of Civic Fusion: Mediating Polarized Public Disputes

Why did I love this book?

Susan has helped a lot of people come together to work out their differences and achieve a common goal, even in the face of deeply-held conflicting values. She calls the kinds of processes she helps to design: civic fusion. Because she is a skilled mediator who has worked in all kinds of situations in many places, she is able to explain and illustrate how adding a “neutral” facilitator can overcome fundamental obstacles to agreement. The cases that she talks about, like a city that has gone bankrupt, thrown out its elected leaders and had to write a new charter to redefine the kind of democracy it wanted to be, actually pulled that off. 

She played a role in bringing together pro-life and pro-choice leaders for a private dialogue in which they were able to find common ground. Passion, power and conflict generate energy; Susan describes ways of channeling that energy to achieve shared objectives even in the face of strongly held beliefs that run in opposite directions. 

By Susan L. Podziba,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Civic Fusion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Civic fusion occurs when people bond to achieve a common public goal, even as they sustain deep value differences. This book offers proven strategies for moving polarized parties to consensus solutions based on the author's 25 years of mediation and negotiation experience, including working with pro-life and pro-choice leaders after fatal shootings at women's health clinics, crane industry and union representatives to develop federal worker safety regulations, and citizens of a failed city that reclaimed their democracy by writing a consensus charter.

Using these and other real-world examples, Civic Fusion guides readers through a provocative discussion about what mediators aspire…

Book cover of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

Why did I love this book?

Doug and Sheila start with the assumption that we all want to learn and grow, but at the same time, we also want to be accepted just as we are. That means, we don’t want to be on the receiving end of evaluations, advice, criticism, or coaching that highlight our flaws. Most of us believe that feedback is essential for ensuring healthy relationships and ensuring our professional development, but as they point out, “we dread it and often dismiss it.” They see feedback as a step in the larger process of negotiation. When I try to convince you of something, I need to offer not just a demand, but an argument or evidence that makes sense to you and backs up what I’m saying.

Doug and Sheila have suggestions for how to avoid the traps (“triggers,” they call them) that get in the way of our accepting or even seeking feedback. They also show us how to “beat our blind spots” and learn despite them. Finally, they show how to turn what might be offered as an evaluation into a meaningful request for coaching. This book shows how to give and get feedback in a way that makes the exchange a lot less difficult.

By Sheila Heen, Douglas Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thanks for the Feedback as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The coauthors of the New York Times-bestselling Difficult Conversations take on the toughest topic of all: how we see ourselves

Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen have spent the past fifteen years working with corporations, nonprofits, governments, and families to determine what helps us learn and what gets in our way. In Thanks for the Feedback, they explain why receiving feedback is so crucial yet so challenging, offering a simple framework and powerful tools to help us take on life's blizzard of offhand comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited input with curiosity and grace. They blend the latest insights from neuroscience and…

Book cover of The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World

Why did I love this book?

Mike shows how to cope with chaos and uncertainty by avoiding rigid plans and entrenched positions. He sees negotiation as a process of joint exploration that requires continual learning and adaptation. For him, the keys are agility and creativity. I’ve had lots of opportunities to hear Mike describe the ways that improvisation in jazz, sports, theatre, and even military action can teach us about improvisation in everyday negotiation. Mike has elevated improvisation to a key aspect of negotiation, and he has done so in a most convincing way. 

By Michael Wheeler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of Negotiation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A member of the world renowned Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School introduces the powerful next-generation approach to negotiation.

A member of the world-renowned Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School introduces the powerful next-generation approach to negotiation.

For many years, two approaches to negotiation have prevailed: the “win-win” method exemplified in Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton; and the hard-bargaining style of Herb Cohen’s You Can Negotiate Anything. Now award-winning Harvard Business School professor Michael Wheeler provides a dynamic alternative to one-size-fits-all strategies that don’t match real world realities.

The Art of Negotiation…

Book cover of Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together

Why did I love this book?

Bill Isaacs offers a pioneering approach to communicating in business and in life. His book starts with the assumption that people don’t know how to talk in a way that will make it easier for them to work together with others to solve shared problems. His company, DIAlogos, has organized dialogues in a wide variety of public and private settings. In the book, his discussion of “the architecture of the invisible” makes clear why better communication begins with listening, respect, suspending our own opinions, and finding our voice. I’m particularly taken with his discussion of how we can “cultivate organizational and system dialogue.” He also has some important ideas about how we can return to civility in our public discourse in the current time when “Red” and “Blue” have forgotten how to communicate at all. 

By William Isaacs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dialogue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dialogue provides practical guidelines for one of the essential elements of true partnership--learning how to talk together in honest and effective ways. Reveals how problems between managers and employees, and between companies or divisions within a larger corporation, stem from an inability to conduct a successful dialogue.

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