The
book starts with the observation that oftentimes, we are faced with the
challenge of getting past no’s when negotiating. It may be in the form of a
rejected proposal, a last-minute refusal of a party who have previously agreed
to the stipulations of your supposed agreement, or a hardheaded teenager.
Getting past these rejections and failed negotiations is the highlight of the
book.

To
successfully arrive at an agreement after a failed negotiation, one must
endeavor to make the other side participate in a join problem-solving. Both
parties must attack the problem and not the people. More often than not,
emotions run high during negotiations and parties end up attacking each other
instead of tackling the problem itself. Moreover, a good negotiator must focus
on interests and not on positions. Behind every position are underlying
interests that must be taken into account in order to arrive at an agreement
that would leave both sides satisfied. Positional bargaining is costly and
inefficient since conflicting positions are mostly not capable of being
reconciled. Meanwhile, the interests behind these positions can be. Hence, in
order to get the other side to agree, and satisfy your own interests, you must
focus on reconciling interests rather than positions. When both sides participate
in finding solutions that would generate mutual gain, the results of the
negotiations would likely to be better.

However,
there are barriers to cooperation, namely: your reaction, their emotion, their
position, their dissatisfaction, and their power. Often, a reaction from one
negotiator will elicit a reaction from the other and the cycle then goes on.
Instead of tackling the problem and actually negotiating, both sides end up
getting derailed and it becomes a contest of will and face. In the end, nothing
gets done. Next, is the other side’s emotion. In negotiations, especially in
positional bargaining, both sides feel that their position is right and the
others are wrong, hence, they refuse to listen. They may attack the other side
due to anger or fear, and justify their actions by using foul strategies.
Another barrier is their position, when parties resort to positional
bargaining, they see negotiations as a zero-sum game where the parties believe
that the only way they will win is if the other side takes their position. They think that if they bend or adjust to the other
side’s position or choices, they immediately lose. An additional barrier is the
other side’s dissatisfaction. Even if one side’s goal is to make a mutually
satisfactory agreement, the other side might not be able to see how such
agreement will make them better off. Despite how the agreement actually
satisfies their underlying interests, negotiators are still afraid to accept
the agreement since they fear it will make them look weak for somehow giving up
they position. The last barrier is their power. Some parties see negotiations
as a venue to display their power play. They are close to reason or any other
alternatives for they believe that their side has to be the side that “wins”
the negotiation. This is again costly and inefficient since negotiations should
not be a battle of wills.